Haze develops across Southern Utah; air quality update

ST. GEORGE – Hazy air is blanketing the sky over Southern Utah this week, becoming especially noticeable Wednesday. But officials say the local air quality is now at a moderate level.

The haze being seen across Southern Utah is coming from wildfires burning across northern California, Oregon, Idaho and Washington, National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Seaman said.

Air quality forecast for Washington County | Image courtesy Utah Department of Environmental Quality, St. George News
Air quality forecast for Washington County | Image courtesy of Utah Department of Environmental Quality, St. George News

“Smoke from wild fires could cause high concentrations of particulates in populated areas,” according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality website.

“If smoke becomes thick, persons with existing heart or respiratory ailments should reduce physical exertion and outdoor activity,” the DEQ warning said.

The haze, which is evenly dispersed at about 15,000 to 20,000 feet in the atmosphere, Seaman said, has been building up over the past few days but became especially noticeable Wednesday.

For most of the summer, Southern Utah has had a southerly weather flow, which has brought air up from Arizona. So, while the fires across the West have been burning for months, the smoke has been carried away from Utah, Seaman said.

However, in the last week or so, the flow has changed to north-northwest.

“And that’s kind of brought that smoke from the wildfires into the Great Basin and the desert Southwest,” Seaman said.

The smoke hit the Wasatch Front three days ago, Seaman said, and a weak cold front pushed more smoke into Southern Utah.

The haze is expected to last a few more days until the weather switches back to a west, then southwest flow, he said.

“You’ll likely see an improvement during the weekend and into early next week,” Seaman said.

Resources

  • Utah Department of Environmental Quality air quality forecast
  • Utah Department of Environmental Quality AirNow website
  • Southern Utah Air Quality Task Force Web page

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1 Comment

  • DRT August 19, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Thanks for this article. My wife and I were discussing it just this evening.

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