Tech Tuesday: Wildfire Smoke Visualization Tools

Wildfire smoke above Kamloops obscures the view of Mt. Peter and Mt. Paul.

Wildfires are a common presence during BC summers. This summer, our area has seen a smaller number of fires. So where’s all that smoke coming from? Is it safe to go out?

Here are a few tools to get you started with visualizing different aspects of wildfires, especially smoke. Lately, it’s coming from fires in Washington, Oregon, and California. Check these out and let us know which one you like best! Is there another website, app, or resource that you think is super cool? Let us know.

Smoke Spread: NASA Worldview

This page overlays satellite data on an outline map. It has imagery up to the previous day. Try clicking or dragging the timeline at the bottom of the page to show different days. You can track the progress of wildfire smoke from the western US as it comes into BC. You can also spot weather patterns and events such as hurricanes as they move around places like the Caribbean Sea. Try out the different tools on this site to see everything it can do!


Air Quality: PurpleAir network

This Google Maps-based resource shows a network of air quality monitors that individuals and organizations have installed around the world. Can you spot several in the Kamloops area? You can sort by the size of particles, or use an Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) like the one Environment Canada uses. Whichever one you use, higher numbers (and red-purple colours) indicate worse air quality, while lower numbers (and green-yellow colours) indicate cleaner air. This is a great way to verify claims on the news that an area has “the worst air quality in the world” – at least in areas where there are a lot of PurpleAir network monitors.


Smoke Forecast: FireSmoke Canada

FireSmoke Canada uses the BlueSky network of monitors combined with weather information to create maps of ground-level smoke particle concentration up to two days ahead of time. It also shows the locations of fires above a certain size, including an area outline. This resource can help you get a sense of when air quality will improve or worsen in the near future and give you an idea of when clear skies await. As with all forecasts, the actual outcome may change when the conditions used to predict smoke density change.


Fire Location and Size (in BC): BC Wildfire map

The BC Wildfire Service updates this map to show fires across BC. You can view information about a fire like its name, size, discovery date, and suspected cause. If it’s a Wildfire of Note, the map also provides a link to a page with more information about the fire. Want more information on wildfires in our province? The BC Wildfire Service website has current and historical information, and the BC Wildfire Service is worth a look on social media (Twitter and Facebook) for the latest information.


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