WEST GLACIER – Clean, clear air – it’s an increasingly rare and critical resource.
Glacier Nationa Park spokeswoman Lauren Alley says during Air Quality Awareness Week last week, park staff members shared more about how they document current air quality and how air pollution impacts the amazing
vistas and natural resources.
Staffers have been monitoring visibility since 1988 to understand how air pollution affects views and other resources.
Park employees now have another way to keep close eyes on air quality issues that can arise during warmer months.
“We will be deploying a more mobile air quality monitoring system this summer that measures particulates in the air to address concerns about dust and wildland fire smoke levels,” said Chris Downs, Aquatic and Physical Science Programs Leader.
The monitoring system was funded by donations to the Glacier National Park Conservancy.
Glacier National Park air is protected under the Clean Air Act as a Class I Airshed which provides the most protection to pristine lands by severely limiting the amount of additional air pollution allowed to these areas.
The Park also participates in the NPS Air Monitoring Program, which collects data from over 60 national parks nationwide.
Although views from Glacier naturally range up to about 145 miles, the visual range can shrink to approximately 95 miles primarily because of wildfires and pollution that blows in.
Sources of this pollution include industrial plants, agricultural areas, and oil and gas development.
Looking at samples collected by park staff, scientists see that most of Glacier’s reduced visibility comes from organic carbon associated with fires.
However, the second largest contributor is sulfate, which can be associated with industrial processes and fossil fuel combustion.
Park webcams give the public real-time peeks at current air quality.