Frequently Asked Questions
- I can see/smell smoke outside of my window, why do I not see smoke forecasted from FireSmoke?
- Our aim is to provide you with the most accurate smoke forecast as possible.
Unfortunately, there are several factors beyond our control that limits our
ability to provide real time (24/7) forecasts. The most notable factor is how
wildland fires are detected. Almost all wildland fires are detected/monitored
by satellite observation. While satellites observe a very large area, they have
some of their own drawbacks. A key drawbacks results from the satellite's orbit
around the earth. The satellites used by our program (see the technical section
for more details) pass over a specific area once a day. As a result, if a fire
starts after the satellites passes over your area, or significantly expands
unexpectedly after the satellite passes, that information will not be in our
forecast until the following day. Another issue which effects accurate
satellite observations is the presence of clouds. They limit our ability to
see the fire and its associated heat signature
So on days when you see smoke out your window and not in our forecasts we apologize. We are developing new techniques to address these issues and hope to be able to provide a more accurate real time forecasts in the future.
- What time are smoke forecasts ready?
- During the Canadian fire season (April-September) our forecasts are published daily. The daily forecasts are updated every six hours or four times a day. The forecasts are normally updated:
- 5:00 am / 2:00 am
- 11:00 am / 8:00 am
- 5:00 pm / 2:00 pm
- 11:00 pm / 8:00 pm
- How can I look at the smoke forecast for a specific location?
- The easiest method is to use the interactive viewer in your browser to zoom and pan the forecast to a specific region and location. You can also download the dispersion.kmz file for a forecast and load it into Google Earth on your own computer.
- What is the unit of measure used in the smoke forecasts?
- The unit of measure for our smoke forecasts is "micrograms of PM2.5 per
cubic meter (µg/m³)" at ground level. PM2.5 (particulate matter 2.5)
is fine inhalable particles that are 2.5 micrometers and smaller.
PM2.5 poses the highest risk to health from smoke, and the Canadian
government has set the following standards for exposure to this carcinogen:
- 28 µg/m³ (daily average), and
- 10 µg/m³ (annual mean).
- How can I compare PM2.5 and AQHI (Air Quality Health Index)?
- The Environment Canada AQHI is a dimensionless number used to communicate
the health risk associated with specific levels of air pollution to the general
public. The BlueSky Canada system only models the emission and dispersion of
PM2.5 from wildfires. AQHI is derived from a system that models atmospheric
chemistry as well as particulate emissions. So, in addition to PM2.5,
AQHI takes into account the levels of PM10, nitrogen dioxide and ozone.
For this reason, the PM2.5 calculations provided by BlueSky Canada and
the AQHI cannot be compared directly. However, if the concentration of
PM2.5 is very high, the chances are good that the AQHI will be high as well.
For the most recent AQHI values across Canada.
Eastern / Pacific
- Where can I find a description of the system used to produce the smoke forecasts?
- Please read The BlueSky Canada Wildfire Smoke Forecasting System for more information.
- What time are smoke forecasts ready?
- Smoke forecasts are the result of a sophisticated process that involves multiple steps, agencies and software components. Please read the Daily Run Schedule for an overview of these steps and when they occur. Note that many of these steps are dependent on the number of fires currently burning; publishing of smoke forecasts can vary by hours as a result.
- How can I look at the raw data for a smoke forecast?
- The time series PM 2.5 emissions data is available to download in the dispersion.nc file for each smoke forecast. This file is in NetCDF format, an open format for array-oriented scientific data. We recommend using either NASA's Panoply or Integrated Data Viewer (IDV) to view the data, and most scientific computing software has libraries to work with NetCDF files.
If you did not find the answer to your question here, please use our Contact page to submit your question to the BlueSky Canada team.