For many of us who wonder when the summer of smoke 2012 will finally end, the answer may be when it gets cold and wet enough to put out the fires burning all over the mountains of Idaho and the rest of the Pacific Northwest.
Fire managers call that a season-ending event and something like that is likely months away. So then it becomes all about the wind. If its blowing from the west/southwest, the Boise area will get smoke from fires burning in California, Oregon, and Nevada during the day. At night, when the wind dies down, smoke from the Trinity Ridge Fire near Featherville, Halstead Fire near Stanley, and Mustang Complex in the Salmon-Challis National Forest leaks down into the Treasure Valley, and stays there until the daily inversion breaks up. That combination is what is making the Boise smell like a campfire ring Tuesday.
While the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality originally predicted a yellow air quality day in the Boise area Tuesday which is moderate but smoke from wildfires resulted in the DEQ issuing a valley-wide orange alert by 10 a.m., which means the air is unhealthy for sensitive groups of people, like children, older adults, and people with lung disease.
At 7 a.m., DEQ monitors at St. Lukes Meridian Medical Center registered an orange air quality index (AQI) reading for PM2.5 particles.
A weak cold front moving through the Boise area Tuesday morning may help scrub the air somewhat if it actually rains, according to National Weather Service reports. There is a 35 percent chance of rain, which means there is a 65 percent chance it wont.
Air quality should improve by this afternoon when the daily inversion lifts and some of that trapped smoke moves out.
That chance of rain goes down to about 15 percent by Tuesday afternoon. The estimated high temperature for the Boise area Tuesday is 96 degrees.
At least Treasure Valley residents should get a break from hot temperatures by later in the week, as the estimated high temperature for the Boise area on Friday is 84 degrees. The highs for the two days before that are 91 and 93, according to National Weather Service reports. We may even get some Northwesterly winds along with those cooler temperatures, which means less smoke.