Aug 4, 2021 - News

Experts warn Denver metro's smoky air will worsen

A photo of a map with gray over the Front Range indicating poor air quality

Air quality alerts over the Front Range. Map via the National Weather Service

Metro residents breathed a bit easier after really bad air Monday, but we’re far from in the clear.

What's happening: Stubborn smoke from western Canadian fires over the weekend finally dwindled, but experts predict the Front Range will see an uptick in haze as the week continues.

  • A shift in winds is expected to blow in thick plumes from the massive wildfires burning in northern California, Colorado chief air quality meteorologist Scott Landes tells Axios.

Why it matters: Today marks the Front Range's 30th-straight day under air quality alerts, thanks to raging wildfires in the West. Unclean air poses risks to human health, particularly sensitive groups, including the elderly and people with asthma.

  • New studies show the smoke from some wildfires may pose even more harm than previously known because its noxious fumes include elevated levels of chemicals such as lead, zinc and iron.

The intrigue: Rain over western Colorado in recent weeks decreased the state's wildfire activity, leading to less smoke blanketing the Front Range.

  • But on the flip side, the rain increased humidity levels across eastern Colorado, which Landes says raises the rate of harmful chemicals in the air.

What you should do: Colorado's Air Quality Division advises limiting outdoor activity, especially for vulnerable residents with heart disease and respiratory illnesses, when heavy smoke is present.

The bottom line: The wildfires are both a consequence of climate change and an accelerant of global warming, Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.

  • And drought and extreme heat will likely continue to fuel an already bad wildfire season — meaning more smoke headed our way.

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