Dust and smoke issues in the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District

Smoke shifting our way tonight

Posted by admin on July 31, 2014

Today, the French Fire in the Sierra Forest was estimated at 7,024 acres and the El Portal Fire in Yosemite was at 3,900 acres.  Smoke has mostly been impacting the west side of the Sierra crest but during the right weather conditions makes it over to the east side, especially following the San Joaquin River drainage up over Mammoth Pass. As I’m writing this post, this is occurring already.  A BlueSky smoke dispersion model predicts that, later tonight, the smoke from both fires will travel east and settle into valleys and basins, where it will linger until about midday tomorrow. Below is a 7:43 PM output of the model in a Google Earth image, with the fires and towns labeled for reference.  Concentrations just exceeded the District’s Stage I health advisory level of 100 ug/m3 in Mammoth Lakes, but are not predicted to elsewhere in Owens Valley.

The BlueSky models are available at Look for the California/Nevada daily runs in either Google Maps format (MAP) or Google Earth (KMZ). 

Wildfire Smoke 7-31-2014pm

(Click on image for higher resolution)

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Asian Dust AGAIN!

Posted by admin on April 21, 2014

With seemingly more regularity in March and April, dust from massive storms in Mongolia and northern China (primarily the Gobi Desert region) ends up infusing our airshed with a fine, homogeneous haze.  The effects started to be apparent last week, but intensified over the weekend.  The Gobi Desert storms started on March 11, 2014, according to this article at NASA’s MODIS website: MODIS 2014-03-23 and were still visible from satellite imagery on April 3, 2014: MODIS 2014-04-16.  Studies on the phenomenon of the long-range transport of Asian dust have been published. Here are two examples: VanCuren-jan04 and Szykman, Mintz, Creilson & Wayland 2003.

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LADWP Buckley Pond burn

Posted by admin on March 10, 2014

Starting at about 9:30 this morning, LADWP ignited 13 acres of tules in a prescribed burn at Buckley Ponds east of Bishop.  Most of the smoke went SSE on light winds toward Black Mountain.   From there, it seemed to disperse on out Death Valley Road  that splits off of Hwy 168 (to Westgard Pass) toward Eureka Dunes.  Higher winds after noon cleared any residual smoke out of the Owens Valley.  This is as good a smoke-dispersion result as could possibly be hoped for in a prescribed burn.

Below are two photographs of the smoke dispersion, one looking SW from Redding Canyon Rd and the second looking SE from W Warm Springs Rd by the Bishop Sunland Landfill.  (Click on photos to see full-size images)  Black Mountain is obscured by the smoke on the left side of the Redding Canyon Rd photo.  The same peak can be used as a reference point in the center of the W Warm Springs Rd photo.


Buckley Pond burn as seen from Redding Canyon Rd at 11:15 AM, Monday 3/10/2014


Buckley Pond burn as seen from W Warm Springs Rd at 11:37 AM, Monday 3/10/2014


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High pressure holding Soda Fire smoke on west side

Posted by admin on January 16, 2014

The Soda Fire in the Sequoia National Forest now has an Inciweb link:   Very little of the smoke is making it over to the Owens Valley.  A high pressure is holding most of it down on the west side of the Sierra crest, as can be seen from the Sierra webcams below.  This pattern is expected to hold for several days.

Find “Webcams” link at Peak views

Map of webcam locations relative to the Soda FireSoda Fire Map


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Soda Fire in Sequoia NF (in January!)

Posted by admin on January 14, 2014

Some information on this new Soda Fire is available at  Smoke from it will doubtless impact the Owens Valley.  Below is a view of the smoke plume from a Bald Mountain webcam.

Soda Fire from Bald Mtn

The location is near Grey Meadow, just south of the 2011 Lion Fire at coordinates 36.201, -118.513.Capture

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Smoke levels from Rim Fire

Posted by admin on August 30, 2013

The Rim Fire is 84% contained and is winding down in smoke production.  See the Rim Fire Official Information at: This blog post originated on Friday, 8/30/2013, but will continue to be updated with data and analysis.  Bear Valley and Markleeville, after weeks of having some hourly PM2.5 values in the Unhealthy range or worse, have had a few days in the Good PM2.5 Air Quality range (see chart below).  The weather pattern providing this relief is expected to hold until Sunday, at which point, a low pressure will bring back the SW winds that prevailed earlier during the fire.  Smoke production on the fire has greatly diminished so the impacts won’t be as severe.  Note the cautionary statements regarding PM2.5 and PM10 in the AQI table at

GBUAPCD PM chart 9-17

Markleeville, Bear Valley and other Alpine County communities have been experiencing elevated levels of particulate matter from the Rim Fire since its start on Saturday August 17th, 2013.  Gratefully, the California Air Resources Board installed some emergency portable PM2.5 monitors at Markleeville and Bear Valley.  The monitors’ information can be obtained at the AirNow website as Air Quality Index (AQI) levels. (AirNow mobile device apps are available for up-to-date AQI values).  See the cautionary statements in the AQI table at

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New fires impacting Owens Valley

Posted by admin on August 25, 2013

Two new fires have become large enough to send noticeable amounts to the Owens Valley.  First, the Windy Peak Fire is at lat., long. 36.996, -118.609, about 21 miles west of Aberdeen.  This fire grew to 200 acres and is likely the source of the smoke coming over the crest in the photo below, taken yesterday  at noon with view angle SW to W from East Line Street by the Bishop sewage plant turnoff).  Second, the Fish Fire is at lat., long. 36.214, -118.436, about 24 miles west of Olancha.  Smoke from these two fires came over into the Owens Valley yesterday afternoon and evening, causing “moderate” ( levels of particulate matter (PM) pollution at the District’s monitor in Bishop and  “unhealthy for sensitive groups” levels at District monitors at Owens Lake.  So far today, the south winds have cleared out the smoke back to “good” PM levels in Bishop.  Yesterday’s smoke detection via NOAA’s satellite analysis is depicted below.

Areas of Alpine County to the north and east of the Rim Fire continue to be heavily impacted by its smoke.  The District’s health advisory for these areas is still in effect  It appeared yesterday evening that smoke from the Rim Fire was drifting into Mono and northern Inyo Counties as well.

Today, NOW since the start of this post, smoke from the Fish Fire has begun to impact the Owens Valley again as seen from a District webcam by Owens Lake in the third image below.  This is likely to cause “unhealthy for sensitive groups” to “unhealthy” PM levels.  For current Owens Lake webcam views, see


Smoke Detect Aug-24-2013

flatrock Aug-25-2013 1410


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Rim Fire smoke pattern will continue

Posted by admin on August 23, 2013

Midday southwest winds are predicted to continue for the next 4-5 days, directing smoke from the Rim Fire northeast toward Carson City, where PM2.5 readings reached 24o µg/m³ this afternoon.  This pollution level is considered “Unhealthy” as described in the table at  Carson City is about twice the distance from the fire as the Alpine County communities of Bear Valley, Kirkwood and Markleeville.  Based on photographs and accounts from these towns, the visibility has been 1/2 mile or less at times.  This equates to “Hazardous” conditions, prompting the District to continue the health advisory for Alpine County (note the visibility guidelines for recommendations).  Below is the smoke pattern as observed by satellite today and below that is the smoke pattern prediction for tomorrow.

Smoke Detect Aug-23-2013

Smoke Prediction Aug-24-2013



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Rim Fire in Tuolumne County

Posted by admin on August 23, 2013

As of 8:45this morning, the Rim Fire (for fire details, see was reported at 105,620 acres burned since its start on August 17, 2013.  It is only 2% contained.  Here is the fire perimeter report history:

Date & Time Acres
8/19/2013 10:43 PM 10,179
8/20/2013 11:26 PM 16,228
8/21/2013 11:52 PM 36,042
8/22/2013 1:45 AM 53,867
8/22/2013 8:00 PM 63,366
8/23/2013 8:45 AM 105,620


After receiving reports that the smoke was heavy in Markleeville  yesterday, the District issued a health advisory for Alpine County:  Below is an image of the smoke as viewed from Yosemite’s Crane Flat webcam.

Rim Fire 8-21-2013


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Aspen Fire smoke forecast for Friday

Posted by admin on August 1, 2013

Based on smoke predictive modeling provided by the Air Resources Board, tomorrow morning may be as bad or worse than this morning for smoke impacts to Mammoth Lakes, Bishop and surrounding communities.

BlueSky 2013-08-01AM

Thursday, 2013-08-01AM

BlueSky 2013-08-02AM

Friday, 2013-08-02AM

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