Big Sky: Some of the Worst Air Quality in Montana This Week
It's gorgeous, but it's smoky in Big Sky this week. It's been at unhealthy levels off and on for weeks now. Air Quality Index numbers have been hovering in the 120s.
AQI numbers actually run from 0 to 500, with 500 being the absolute worst possible air quality. Any number below 50 is considered to be healthy and not an issue, even for those with underlying conditions.
Bozeman has also been hovering in the "unhealthy for sensitive groups" for most of this week. Unless a significant amount of rain falls in the coming days, those levels are likely to continue.
Thankfully, northwestern Montana has seen much better AQI numbers in recent days. Keep in mind, those AQI numbers can change drastically and very quickly with fire flareups and wind conditions.
- As of Thursday, August 26th (afternoon):
- Drummond, MT: AQI = 106
- Stevensville, MT (south of Missoula): AQI = 121
- Bozeman, MT: AQI = 108
- Big Sky, MT: AQI = 151
- Butte, MT: AQI = 116
- Helena, MT: AQI = 109
- Wolf Creek, MT: AQI = 102
In recent weeks, the Bozeman area and southwest Montana have seen AQI levels as high as the 150s and 160s.
- The Clean Air Act regulates 5 major air pollutants, established by the EPA:
- ground-level ozone
- particle pollution (also known as particulate matter, including PM2.5 and PM10)
- carbon monoxide
- sulfur dioxide
- nitrogen dioxide
The AQI levels that have affected Montana due to wildfires in the state and the northwest have been the particulate pollution levels, PM2.5.
With the six levels or categories of AQI listed above, Montana has been experiencing "unhealthy for sensitive groups" and "unhealthy" levels this summer.
According to the EPA: "Particulate matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Some particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter can get deep into your lungs and some may even get into your bloodstream. Of these, particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, also known as fine particles or PM2.5, pose the greatest risk to health.
Fine particles are also the main cause of reduced visibility (haze) in parts of the United States, including many of our treasured national parks and wilderness areas."