Grande Prairie’s Air Quality Health Index is currently being observed at a 4 (Moderate Risk) due to the B.C. forest fires.
The forest fires are generating huge amounts of smoke over western Canada, and the smoke is making its way across the Rockies.
Environment Canada Meteorologist Brian Proctor says that the Air Quality Health Index isn’t the best method when it comes to measuring health risks with wildfire smoke and that the risk may actually be a stronger than suggested.
“The Air Quality Health Index is an index developed by Health Canada in partnership with provincial health authorities that really looks at long term exposure to pollutants and the effects it has on an individual’s health by looking at emergency room visits, things of that nature,” said Proctor. “So, it’s an index that talks about how people should look at the possible changing behaviours associated with what the air quality.”
Proctor also said it is a very active fire season in B.C. and that they have a potential for fire development in those areas.
“Depending on what the atmospheric stability is like and depending on what the winds are like in the atmosphere we’re going to be getting episodic events of wood fire smoke or wildfire smoke for the foreseeable future,” said Proctor. “In the short term, it looks as if conditions are going to stay bad through Grande Prairie through much of the next 24 to 36 hours and gradually improve through the day tomorrow.”
The Air Quality Health Index is forecasted to reach a 10 (High Risk) tonight, but will fall back to a 4 (Moderate Risk) tomorrow.
“We look at atmospheric stability and the more unstable the atmosphere is the more we mix that wood smoke or that wildfire smoke through a thicker layer of the atmosphere, or a thicker depth of the atmosphere, so the concentrations don’t get really, really high at the surface,” said Proctor. “So, in the overnight hours when things tend to stabilize in the atmosphere often times subsidence in the atmosphere will bring that wood smoke back down to the surface.”
Proctor says that even though it is going to improve tomorrow, he can see Grande Prairie getting back into the higher index in the long term.
He added that people with lung diseases, such as COPD or asthma, as well as kids and elderly people should limit their outdoor activity and stay inside as much as possible.
Updates and current observation of the Air Quality Health Index can be found here.