NewsMissoula County


Meet the person behind Missoula's air quality reports

Sarah Coefield
Posted at 4:57 PM, May 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-19 18:59:54-04

MISSOULA - It looks like fire season has come early in the Missoula area, but it has not. The smoke we are seeing outside is a result of fires burning in Canada.

Missoula County Public Health closely monitors the air quality in the area to make sure the air that we are breathing in is healthy. The person who monitors air quality is Sarah Coefield who is known for sending air quality forecasts that are easy to read.

She has a master's degree in journalism which allows her to share the science behind air quality forecasts to the public to where they would be able to understand it. The reports also have a sense of humor which makes the reports even more relatable to those who read them.

Coefield explained what her job entails.

“I pull up all the air monitors up on both our permeant monitor sites in Frenchtown, Missoula and Seely Lake as well as the data from consumer sensors that are all available on EPA’s fire and smoke map so I can see kind of how the air quality is trending across the entire region and not just Missoula County but the entire United States and Canada so we can get a good feel for how conditions are changing throughout the region,” Coefield said.

Coefield also looks at atmospheric models and satellites which can show the heat radiating from the fires and show where the smoke that is in the air is going to go. When it comes to local fires, she also uses these models to look at the Missoula area.

“When we have local fires, I pay attention to what’s happening on those fires. Are they growing really fast are the people on the fires planning to do a back burn which would produce more smoke in the air and just get a feel for what's happening on the fire and get a feel for where the smoke is coming from and where it’s going to and there where it is likely going to impact the people of our community,” Coefield said.

Coefield’s reports are also finished off with a photo of her cat who goes on hikes with her.