What’s With That Dirty Air?

Alaska Fire Service and the Division of Forestry have fielded a handful of calls regarding the hazy look to Interior air in the last couple of days. Callers have asked about air quality from Copper River, Tok, Delta and Fairbanks.  Currently, there are no significant fires burning in Alaska, Canada, or Russia to cause widespread smoke in our air.

The Fairbanks air quality monitors show that PM2.5, which is a measure of fine particulate matter the size of most smoke pollution, is quite low. However, PM10, which measures larger particulates and is representative of dust, dirt, and pollen, is fairly high. At this time, the 24-hour average is just below moderate criteria. This indicates that the dirty air that we are seeing is just that: dirt, dust, and pollen. These pollutants tend to make the air look dirty at lower concentrations than smoke as the particles are so much larger in diameter. The good news is that our respiratory systems are very effective at filtering out these larger particles!

Fairbanks North Star Borough’s Air Quality Division confirms that this is a fairly common occurrence in the springtime in Interior Alaska, but it is exacerbated this year with a rapid and early snowmelt, lack of rainfall, elevated pollen counts, and breezy conditions at the surface.  As the strong high pressure system slips away to the southeast this weekend, increased clouds and a chance for some rain showers will help to clean up our dirty air!

You can view the Fairbanks air quality monitor and others around the state at http://dec.alaska.gov/applications/air/envistaweb/.

Comments are closed.