Smoke, and air quality in Springerville, AZ

Springerville PM2-5 chart from web site

As we have seen from maps over the last couple of weeks, the smoke from the wildfires in Arizona is being produced, if not in unprecedented amounts, at least in huge quantities that is affecting residents far and wide.

Even though the evacuation order for Springerville and Eagar has been lifted, Chris Sexton, Apache County health director, said the smoke problems may continue for weeks.

Because of the health problems associated with smoke from the Wallow Fire, Apache County Public Health Services District and the Emergency Operations Center warns residents of Eagar and Springerville that it would be best not to return to their homes until the concentration of smoke diminishes.

The link above references the web site for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, where data from a new air quality monitoring station in Springerville is available. Here is an image from the site where they display readings for PM 2.5 (more info), which is Particulate Matter smaller than 2.5 microns, particles of smoke so small that they can only be seen with an electron microscope:

Springerville PM2-5 chart from web site
Springerville PM2.5 chart from AZ DEQ web site

I was intrigued that the data went off the chart every day, so I downloaded the raw data and ran it through Excel. Click the chart below to see a larger version.


Springerville PM2-5 chart Excel
(Click to enlarge) Springerville PM2.5 chart. Raw data from AZ DEQ.

The chart at the AZ DEQ web site only goes up to 500 ug/m3, but the actual data for Springervilles exceeds 589 ug/m3 for the last four days, the only data available for Springerville at the web site. On June 10 it maxed out at 1,139. By the way, “ug/m3” stands for micrograms per cubic meter of air.

During that same four-day period, the PM2.5 levels at Prescott never exceeded 20, and at Flagstaff the maximum recorded was 30.

The AZ DEQ web site appears to reference a ug/m3 level of 40 as being the U.S. EPA 24 Hour National Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). On June 10 the maximum reading at Springerville was 28 times the maximum for the standard.

I don’t think the AZ DEQ is intentionally hiding the extreme nature of the air quality in Springerville. It is likely that when they designed the web site they didn’t expect the readings to ever exceed 500.

So far today at 3:40 p.m. MT, the maximum PM2.5 reading in Albuquerque, NM has been 68.

Below is today’s map showing the distribution of wildfire smoke across the U.S. and Canada. The red dots are fires, while the smoke is green (thin), yellow (moderately dense), and purple (dense).

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.