Montana Smoke

IlVagabondo

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I've been in Butte for four days now and not really seen the mountains. The air smells like my clothes after three days of car camping and sitting by the fire. It's been pushing (or exceeding) 90 every day.

How normal is all this? Locals say it's warmer than usual, and as for the smoke, they kind of shrug and say something like, "Yeah, it's fire season," while admitting that *maybe* it's a little earlier than usual.

Is this now what summer in the Northern Rockies is like? I am hoping some locals and more experienced visitors here might fill me in.

I confess that the smoke is dampening my enthusiasm for hiking and camping, and I don't see how it's going to clear up anytime between now and, what, October? I have another month in town at an AirBnB, and I like Butte, but I chose this place for the outdoors, and now the outdoors seem a little less appealing.

Yeah, I'm a little frustrated at the moment, but still ... is this the "new normal" out here?

Thanks!
Paul
 

tennistime99

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Jan 16, 2018
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I've been going through Missoula for years and it's smoked out quite often at certain times of the year, usually September for my visits. One year my wife and I were smoked out all the way from Wyoming and all the way over Lolo pass, still fires along the side of the road.
We drove for about 14 hours straight because neither of us wanted to breath it all night camping.
Decades of drought and warming temperatures don't bode well for forests.

Sent from my ONEPLUS A6013 using Tapatalk
 

Bob

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I've been in the intermountain area for 40 yrs......... it's Normal in summer, a little early this year thru Idaho Montana Wyoming.... Occaisionally get a smokeless august.... Last one I remember was 2009.....

Check fire airnow.gov to keep track of the worst smoke .....
 

Jackson

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I'm new to living in Montana but lived in Utah for ten years before moving here. This is early for this level of smoke. May become the new normal, but for now, it's abnormally early. The heatwave fried the snowpack in June and it's still warmer than normal almost every day. Going to be a rough next few months unless the whole west gets a lot of rain and cooler temperatures all of a sudden. In my experience, mid August through later September is usually when it's smoky.

I feel you on not wanting to go out. Kinda sucks when the air irritates your throat and lungs.
 

Bob

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I'm new to living in Montana but lived in Utah for ten years before moving here. This is early for this level of smoke. May become the new normal, but for now, it's abnormally early. The heatwave fried the snowpack in June and it's still warmer than normal almost every day. Going to be a rough next few months unless the whole west gets a lot of rain and cooler temperatures all of a sudden. In my experience, mid August through later September is usually when it's smoky.

I feel you on not wanting to go out. Kinda sucks when the air irritates your throat and lungs.
Not abnormally normal.... It's normal at least in east central Idaho ... mid July brings the smoke from the west .... And I have been here a while.
 

Rockskipper

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For some reason Missoula seems to be one of the worst places in Montana in the fire season. I think it’s because it sits in a valley that’s oriented like it is. From what I’ve been reading, fire season is a month early this year. I’ve been through Missoula and Butte both when the smoke was so bad it made you feel panicky.

I think this is the new normal with global warming. There’s no escape, no matter where you go. I was in Colorado last summer between two really gnarly fires and watched ashes falling from the sky day after day. I live in my rig, and I can foresee a day when this lifestyle becomes too difficult. Smoke, brutal heat, incredible rain storms, etc. I was in a storm a few weeks ago where I literally thought my rig was going to float away, and I was camped on flat ground, nary a wash in sight. I think a lot of people who bought RVs and camping gear to escape covid will find out that living outdoors for long is just too extreme anymore and not enjoyable, at least not in the summer.
 

Jackson

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Not abnormally normal.... It's normal at least in east central Idaho ... mid July brings the smoke from the west .... And I have been here a while.
So you're saying it's normal for it to be this smoky by mid July? I haven't been out west nearly as long as you, and I'm not in wildland firefighting like you, so I lack that level of personal experience. But I've gotta say I'm skeptical, given that local news sources and everyone around me here is talking about how it's so early this year. Maybe not unheard of, but abnormal and also abnormally heavy.
 

Rockskipper

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My assessment agrees with Jackson’s. It does seem usually early and heavy. I’ve been spending part of the summers in the Montana region for many years, and always felt I was pretty safe from the smoke until mid to late July. Not every year, but in general.
 

Bob

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It is mid July....... And I'm more saying central idaho. Fire season/smoke starts in the east in Feb..... Southwest in late April/may/June.... Utah/Nevada/cal/east ore/wash June /July ....... S/Mid Idaho July.... Mt mid July/Aug. The east didn't have much. Southwest had a lot. Utah had a lot till monsoons came on schedule. And so on. ... I think earliness irrelative.... They are and have been making this with a political spin... Current type of fuels from previous years and current years and ignition are important.... MOST fires are caused by STUPID people.... In places where they cause most harm ... And yes they are burning hotter.... Drought and fuel loading..... And man isn't going to change climates march thru the milenia..... We do affect what is changing, but we don't cause the changes. Granted some places population/use has exaberated the problem.... Like the Salt Lake shrinking,

Just my opinion... I'm not a so called expert.
 
Last edited:

Rockskipper

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We can’t get away with saying that humans are not responsible for the carbon that’s been added to the atmosphere. The isotopes don’t lie and they show it.

 

Bob

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We can’t get away with saying that humans are not responsible for the carbon that’s been added to the atmosphere. The isotopes don’t lie and they show it.

Didn't say that..... I said humans contribute......
 

OldBill

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Aug 18, 2015
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I'm hoping for monsoon moisture above current predictions (July 12) NA_Outlook.pdf (nifc.gov) But, can only hope for best, prepare for the worst come late Aug-early Sep. Maybe another strong cold front will come through (though I'd prefer it do far less wind damage than last year's event!)

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