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I have asthma. When my lungs are irritated, it feels like I’m breathing through a straw. As you can imagine, the condition can really impact my ability to climb.
So long as my inhaler is handy, I’m usually O.K. But if I can plan my climbing around air quality, I will. With Gaia GPS, you can use the smoke, wildfire, and air quality maps to determine and predict air quality at your local crag. If you’re like me, you may opt for a gym day when the air quality is poor. Even for non-sensitive individuals, the suspended particulates within wildfire smoke can cause an itchy throat and eyes, which may be irritating enough to defer a send.
Below, find out how to use Gaia GPS to avoid wildfire smoke. While the Smoke Forecast maps are available for free, a premium membership allows you to download maps and take them offline. Luckily for me (and you), Gaia Premium is free for our Outside Plus members.
The below instructions were originally published on Gaia’s blog:
Smoke Forecast Today, 24h, and 48h
The new Smoke Forecast layers show an estimate of the concentration of wildfire smoke present near the ground. These predictions take into account smoke billowing from nearby wildfires, as well as smoke blown across the atmosphere from fires burning far away. The Smoke Forecast data comes from a NOAA weather model called High Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR). HRRR measures particulates on a 3km grid spanning the continental US.
Color-coded shading on the map gives you a quick sense of wildfire smoke in or coming to your area. Like a tape measure, the higher the number the denser (and more harmful) the particulate concentration. Lower smoke concentrations appear gray on the map, progressing to yellow, orange, and finally red for the highest concentrations.
The color-coded scale in the map roughly translates to the Air Quality Index, the EPA’s index for reporting air quality. Note that gray on the Smoke Forecast scale equates to green on AQI. You can use this color-coded system as a loose guide for when it’s safe to recreate outside, or when you should modify your plans.
To see the exact estimated particulate amount, simply tap that location on the map. The sidebar on the web and the tap drawer on your phone will give you the smoke concentration (in μg/m³) and time that forecast was recorded (in UTC). Smoke Forecast (today) is updated hourly. Smoke Forecast (24h) and (48h) are updated every six hours.
This is a model-derived forecast layer, not an exact reading. These layers carry the same level of forecast uncertainty as other weather predictions, such as our Precipitation and Snow Forecast maps. In addition, very recent or small wildfires may not be included in the smoke prediction. This means that these maps may underestimate the amount of surface smoke present.
How to Use Smoke Forecast Maps
- Pull up the relevant Smoke Forecast map for your trip. If you’re heading out today, look at the Smoke Forecast (Current) map. If your trip will extend into tomorrow or span an entire weekend, pull up the Smoke Forecast (24h) or (48h), respectively.
- Pair the Smoke Forecast layer on top of your favorite base map, such as Gaia Topo or Satellite Imagery with Labels to see exactly how the air quality looks along each part of your route.
- Look at the color-coded shading over your route.
- Clear or light gray — good to go
- Yellow — moderate. Proceed with caution.
- Orange — Unhealthy for sensitive individuals.
- Red — Unhealthy to hazardous. Modify your plans or stay home.
- Next, use the Smoke Forecast layers in conjunction with our Wildfire (Satellite) and Wildfire (Current) maps to get a comprehensive understanding of how where fires are burning and how to bypass them.
- Finally, add the Air Quality (Current) and Air Quality (Tomorrow) maps to get an even richer sense of how wildfire smoke compounds with ozone and other air pollutants to influence the overall air quality in your area. Learn more about the wildfire and air quality maps here.
How to Access Smoke Forecast Maps
All three Smoke Forecast Maps are available for free on gaiagps.com and in the app. To add the Smoke Forecast layers to your active maps in the iOS or Android app or on the web, simply select the map layers button, tap “Add map layers” and select “Feature/Weather Overlays.” Choose from Smoke Forecast (Today), Smoke Forecast (24h), and Smoke Forecast (48h).
Since refreshing for updated smoke data requires a wifi connection, these maps are not available for offline downloads. However, you can keep a recent visual on your phone: viewing the forecast over an area in a map will cache that data, leaving it available to view in the app for 24 hours.
Use of this map layer for any purpose is at your own risk. Trailbehind Inc (maker of Gaia GPS) is not responsible for any actions you take based on the information contained in any map.
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