Smoke Forecasts

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.
Why are the smoke areas on the various maps different?
The western and eastern Canada domains have been set up to use higher resolution smoke dispersion than the Canada-wide depiction. Therefore, the smoke predictions for these differing domains need to be produced separately. The price of doing it this way is that some fires outside the boundaries of the western and eastern domains will missed. For the most complete depiction of fires across Canada, you should consult the Canada-wide map. For finer smoke resolution, consult the western and eastern domains.
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.
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 file for each smoke forecast. This file is in NetCDF format, an open format for array-oriented scientific data. We recommend using the Integrated Data Viewer (IDV) to view the data, and most scientific computing software has libraries to work with NetCDF files.
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:
  • 28 µg/m³ (daily average), and
  • 10 µg/m³ (annual mean).
Here is the scale we use on our forecast maps to show the levels of PM2.5:

How can I compare PM2.5 and AQHI?
The Environment Canada AQHI (Air Quality Health Index) is a dimensionless number used to communicate the health risk associated with specific levels of air pollution. The BlueSky Canada system only models the emission and dispersion of PM2.5 from wildfires. The AQHI is derived from a system that models atmospheric chemistry as well as particulate emissions. So in addition to PM2.5, it takes into account the levels of PM10, nitrogen dioxide and ozone. For this reason, PM2.5 and the AQHI cannot be compared directly, although if the concentration of PM2.5 is very high, the chances are good that the AQHI will be high as well.