WSU helps predict air quality during smoke season

By Kate Nelson, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture intern

smoke air qualityPULLMAN, Wash. – As wildfire smoke clouds Pacific Northwest skies, researchers from Washington State University are helping improve air quality predictions with the first high-resolution, Web-based air-quality forecast system in the country.

Created by researchers in WSU’s Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (LAR), the system uses numerical weather forecasts and pollution emission data to predict concentrations of ozone, particulates and other pollutants as they are emitted, transformed, removed and transported across the region.

smoke air qualityThe AIRPACT (Air Indicator Report for Public Awareness and Community Tracking) system is receiving wildfire data from satellites and producing air-quality forecasts nightly. Especially significant during fire season is the system’s ability to model particles under 2.5 micrometers in size, which are indicative of wildfire smoke.

To see hourly projected wildfire smoke concentrations for the region, visit The date and clock on the right show what hour into the future the map is predicting – up to 48 hours. The best air quality shows as white on the map while the worst is red.

Find more fire and smoke information at the Washington Smoke Information blog at


Joseph K. Vaughan, WSU Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, 509-335-2832,