Saturday, August 29, 2015

Plume Preview

I'm working work the WRF model and testing the plume function. Imagine inserting a bunch of molecules at a location and watching where they go after they are blown by the wind, like watching smoke disperse.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Smoke Week: August 16 - August 23

Smoke from fires in the Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California was transported into Utah starting August 15th and didn't clear out for over a week. The red dots in the image below show the location of fires based on MODIS observations on August 20th. These fires include the largest fire in Washington's history.fires_MODIS_aug20 Smoke_Aug15-25_MODIS Air quality across Utah was impacted by the smoke. At MtMet between the 18th and 22nd PM 2.5 concentrations were in the moderate range and unhealthy for sensitive groups range. metmet_pm25 Also shown is the ozone at MtMet during the same time. Other observations at MtMet are here. ozone_mtmet University of Utah trucks, KSL Chopper, and TRAX drove around measuring ozone on August 19th. All observations available here. obs_aug19Looking towards valley from near Bountiful Peak. Looking towards valley from near Bountiful Peak. Lidar observations on August 20th. On the day with the highest backscatter you can see the upper levels winds from the northwest were relatively strong. Lidar backscatter and winds on August 20, 2015 Lidar backscatter and winds on August 20, 2015[/caption]   On the bright side, we I enjoyed the orange sunsets!Moab Sunset, August 15, 2015 Moab Sunset, August 15, 2015Mapleton Sunset, August 22, 2015 Mapleton Sunset, August 22, 2015

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hurricane Forecast Improvements

Ten years of atmospheric science and forecasting improvements makes a big difference. Efforts to improve hurricane forecasts in the last decade are shown in the image below. To the left is the hurricane Katrina three-day forecasted path using 2015 technology and science. The right is the forecast issued three-days before Katrina in 2005. The cone of uncertainty is much smaller.

You can read more about improved hurricane forecasts here.

Summer Smoke

There are lots of fires burning in the West, especially in northern Idaho, as indicated in the "Active Fire" map and satellite image.

The smoke sure made for some orange sun sets the last week.

Fortunately, in Utah, the smoke is starting to clear out. You can see the PM 2.5 concentrations have returned to the healthy levels.
This is due to a shift in our weather pattern. Last Tuesday the upper level winds were blowing from the northwest transporting the smoke from the fires to Utah.

Last night you can see the upper level flow has shifted to a more southwest flow, bringing in smoke-free air and a little rain, as I saw yesterday when I got to campus.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Transported Smoke

Aqua Satellite: August 16, 2015
My allergies have been acting up. I'll bet it is caused by all the smoke in the air. Some of this smoke is likely transported from the northern California fires.

PM 2.5 levels increased across northern Utah, as indicated by several air quality monitoring stations:

At the University of Utah you can see the particulate mater and black carbon concentrations rise late in the evening on August 15th and then drop back down. However, PM concentrations have stayed elevated.

The MTMET ceilometer also shows the smoke increasing particles in the air Saturday evening.

You can see a difference in the air quality in this time lapse video from the Neil Armstrong Academy. Looking at the beginning of the video you can clearly see the mountains in the distance. Fast forward to the next day and the smoke has blown in and the thick smoke obstructs the view.

I was in Moab the evening the smoke blew in and witnessed an amazing sunset. Small particles of smoke scatter light which produces these warm orange and red colors in the horizon in the evening.