Like many Denverites have already noticed, visibility across the city is really, really bad lately.
Elevated concentrations of fine particulates and ozone across the Front Range are forecasted to linger for at least the next few days. Both categories have already reached levels that are unhealthy for sensitive groups like children, the elderly, and those with asthma or heart issues.
Most of the fine particulate matter (or PM2.5) is from wildfire smoke travelling southward from places like the Pacific Northwest and Canada and settling into the eastern portions of the state.
Since the air is travelling down the Front Range from the north, areas like Longmont have had some of the worst air quality of the past days.
Gregg Thomas, the environmental quality division director for the city of Denver, fears that we may be facing the same wildfire-induced haze that lasted for months last summer. That year the bad air didn’t let up at all in part because of the missing monsoon, which would have brought rain to clear up skies for at least a little while.
Now, the wildfire smoke is compounding some of the city’s other air quality issues, too.
“With the wildfire smoke, in addition to the fine particulate matter, there are also other chemicals, some of which help to form ozone,” Thomas explained.
Ground-level ozone pollution is a reaction between sunlight and a variety of pollutants, so the hot summer months are already prime time for higher levels. And since ground-level ozone often accompanies human activities, the pollution is mainly being created along the I-25 corridor and then being swept west towards the foothills, collecting in some of the highest ozone concentrations.
Unfortunately, Scott Landes, a meteorologist with the state’s air quality department, doesn’t think Denver will be in the clear after this latest batch of smoke clears up.
“We’re going to start probably seeing smoke coming from California fires as we go towards the middle and later part of the week,” Landes said. “So even though we might be getting getting rid of some of the smoke, it looks like we could be getting some more.”