Kansas Smoke Model web site now active
One of the key elements of the Kansas Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan is the smoke modeling decision-aid tools. The tools can be found at:
Producers in the Flint Hills region are encouraged to use these tools as part of their prescribed burn planning. The purpose is to help avoid air quality problems that have been associated with the burning of an average of 2,500,000 acres in the region each spring.
What you’ll see on the web site
The Cumulative Fire Impacts page has a map showing the potential for each area to negatively impact air quality at a monitoring site in Kansas or southeastern Nebraska. Smoke from fires in areas that are colored red have a high possibility of decreasing air quality in a monitor location. Fires in yellow areas also have an elevated chance of negatively impacting air quality.
The graphics below are March 4 screen shots from the web site to illustrate this feature.
The map shows two days at a time. Before noon, the maps are for the current day and the next day. After noon, the maps are for the next day and the day after. Areas coded red for the current day may be coded green on the following day. Producers can opt to hold off burning for a day if weather conditions are changing and the prediction is for reduced smoke impacts the following day. For example, in the graphic above, Lyon County goes from red on March 4 to green for March 5, indicating a reduced chance of a burn in that county impacting air quality by waiting a day to burn.
Near the bottom of the page is a very brief forecast discussion, including an extended forecast for the Flint Hills region. This can also assist a producer in deciding whether to postpone a burn and wait for improved dispersion conditions.
It is important to note that the map is for smoke dispersion only. It does not provide any information on other important prescribed burning weather conditions, such as wind speed, temperature, and humidity (e.g. 5-15 mph, 40-80 F, and 40-70%). Dispersion is generally excellent on days that are otherwise too windy to burn safely. Use http://www.weather.gov to obtain your local forecast.
For instance, on March 4 in Emporia, at noon, the temperature is forecast to be 58 F, with wind gusts in excess of 25 mph, and 38% relative humidity. On March 5, the forecasted weather for Emporia at noon is 57 F, 8 mph wind, and 38% relative humidity. Producers are strongly requested to refrain from starting a prescribed burn on the days when a fire in their area would cause air quality problems at a monitoring site (when their area of the map is colored red or yellow).
For most producers, knowing the “cumulative fire impacts” prediction for their area is adequate. But there’s a second tool that producers can use to see specifically where a plume of smoke is forecasted to go from their fire. This modeling tool can be found on the tab “Your Fire Impacts.”
To use this tool, producers enter their location, estimated fuel load, and number of acres to be burned. The model will generate an image of the smoke plume movement from their burn. Often you can see by the plume movement why a region would be coded red, as the plume moves directly over a monitoring location.
The modeling tools are also available in a format for mobile devices: http://ksfire.sonomatechdata.com/view/mobile/
Besides the tools discussed above, the website ksfire.org has a much additional information related to prescribed burning and links to the Kansas Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan, weather, county burn regulations (partial list), and more.
The Kansas Smoke Management Facebook page, found at https://www.facebook.com/ksfire, provides information updates about smoke management and fire in the Flint Hills, especially before and during the spring burn season.
Spreading out the burn season: Match the timing of the burn with objectives
Spreading out the burn season is another way to reduce air quality problems. Evaluate your burn objectives. Increased yearling steer weight gains are one of the primary reasons burning is conducted in April. A late-spring burn will also benefit warm-season grasses. Burning in early spring will enhance forbs. Prescribed burns can be conducted almost anytime to remove thatch and litter or to improve grazing distribution. Prescribed burning of conservation reserve program (CRP) acreage needs to comply with FSA requirements. Burning at times other than April reduces smoke concentration and can lead to fewer air quality problems.
For more information, there are three K-State Research and Extension publications available on air quality related to prescribed burning:
Fire Management Practices to Improve Air Quality
Air Quality Concerns of Prescribed Range Burning in Kansas http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/bookstore/Item.aspx?catId=364&pubId=16940
Fire Management Practices Used to Reduce the Impacts of Smoke Before, During, and After a Burn
Walt Fick, Range Management Specialist