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Air pollution levels rising


October 21, 2013

Stagnant weather conditions causing pollution levels to rise

Stagnant weather, along with colder nights and calm winds, has caused air pollution levels to rise in the southern Willamette Valley and in Oakridge. Levels of fine particulate, a major component of wood smoke, have been in the moderate range in the Eugene/Springfield metro area for the last week. A strong high pressure system is creating an air inversion with cold temperatures at ground level and warmer temperatures aloft. Calm winds and lack of weather systems coming through is causing pollution to stay trapped in the valleys.

“Over the last week we have seen pollution levels spike overnight,” said Sally Markos, LRAPA spokesperson. “The night time spikes in pollution are a strong signature of residential wood heating. Even though we’ve had sunny afternoons, particulate levels start to increase in the early evening when it cools off and wood stove use begins. Smoke levels peak around midnight and go down when fires go out.”

Due to the foggy, stagnant conditions predicted through the weekend, LRAPA has prohibited backyard and open burning in all areas except the coast. LRAPA also cautions residents who use wood stoves to use proper burning practices to reduce smoke emissions. Smoke emissions are reduced by burning small, hot fires, leaving stove dampers open and allowing fires to burn out at the end of the evening. Using only firewood that is dry and properly seasoned will also help reduce smoke emissions and provide more heat. During stagnant periods, exposure to fine particulate can cause health problems for sensitive individuals. People most at risk are those with asthma, heart or lung diseases, and older adults and children. Anyone with these conditions should avoid prolonged exercise or heavy exertion if they experience health symptoms and follow their doctor’s advice.

The National Weather Service is forecasting stagnant conditions at least through next weekend, so pollution levels are not expected to improve until weather systems can break through the high pressure. Residents are encouraged to check the LRAPA website,, for current air quality conditions and the latest burn advisories.


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