Oregon Smoke Information

Map Notes:


The map above is not able to show all state air quality monitors. To see the whole set, go to the left column, under Hot Links
and click on DEQ Air Quality map which will bring up a map with many additional state monitors. Round icons represent permanent state air quality monitors, triangular icons represent temporary smoke monitors (when deployed).


Monday, September 11, 2017

Because You Asked: Should I Watch the 24-Hour Average or One-Hour Average On The Air Quality Index?

We’ve been steering a lot of folks to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Index lately. The color-coded tool looks like this:


OK, sadly, this year it has had a lot more red dots representing air quality in the unhealthy range. Anyway, here’s how you use the AQI, simply click on a dot on the map, and it will tell you which station you’re looking at and what the most current air quality readings are. It will show one-hour and 24-hour readings for particulate matter, the key ingredient in wildfire smoke that can cause health effects.

A blog commenter recently asked which one to use so we checked in with DEQ’s Air Quality Monitoring Section.

Here’s what they had to say:

The one-hour average is meant to assess immediate exposure and the 24-hour average is meant to assess more long-term exposure at lower levels. Both can affect your health, particularly if you have heart disease, an ongoing lung condition including asthma, if you’re over age 65 or if you’re a small child.  You can use these measurements for different purposes. For example, you can use the one-hour average to watch for periods of improved air quality, when you can open up your house and “air things out.” That way, you can start with cleaner air if heavy smoke returns. If you are sensitive to smoke effects and are deciding whether or not to work outside all day, you may want to use the 24-hour average, then use the one-hour average to pick the best time to go out for any unavoidable outside errands.

With the start of school around the corner, we know a lot of you are looking at the forecast and trying to determine whether to hold practices or games. The Oregon Health Authority has a great fact sheet you should check out called Public Health Guidance for School Activities during Wildfire Events.


If you have a question for us, leave a comment. We’ve appreciated all the feedback this wildfire season.

6 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this. It's helpful. Considering this is going to be more common in the future, we need to create an easy to understand air "consumer " oriented easy and high volume site.

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    1. Thanks, Don. As you noted in your other comment forecasts can be fairly tricky as well. I appreciate your comments and insight.

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  2. Keep your smoke forecasts coming! Your blog and the smoke forecasts written regarding Eagle Creek fire have been extremely helpful, allowing many of us to plan ahead. It's meant my own family could safely cool down the house with new outside air, without worrying the winds were going to change on us at any minute. It's also meant we were able to schedule some outdoor activities without missing our window of clean air. Please give us more forecasts that include Eagle Creek smoke and wind direction changes. And thank you!

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    1. Thanks S. Stewart. I will pass that request along to our forecasters. Glad you're finding the posts useful.

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  3. Thanks for addressing this, it's been a constant question in our community. Though using the 24 hour average can be helpful, there's an assumption the next period of time will be similar to the past 24 hours. As we all know, it can swing rapidly leaving you with a one hour green and 24 hour red, or vice versa, the latter of which could really be dangerous for folks planning their activities if they see that there's a green dot (we have to assume many people aren't into the nuances of the system to really figure out all the possibilities given the color combinations). It is inherently a complicated system when you throw in all the individual fire forecasts, state wide models, and the weather forecast uncertainty across up to four different websites (Smoke blog, AirNow, DEQ, NWS). AirNow often seems to have different numbers than DEQ, and with the added confusion of the "Nowcast", you can see how the average person can be spun in circles. Is there any movement to consolidate the reporting and to make the number simple to understand? I'd recommend just the 1 hour AQI and a trend arrow that takes into account the past few hours and the forecasted next few hours, or however long forecasters feel comfortable in general. We're thankful there's as much info as there is, it's just a little overwhelming to know what's what. Thanks for all you're doing and for reaching out.

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    1. I know it can get confusing because of all the moving parts. DEQ plans to update its software next year meaning it will use the same system EPA does. I know that doesn't help you right now, but let's hope this wildfire season is almost over. I better go knock on wood!

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