Particulate Matter 2.5
PM2.5 and Fairbanks
The reasons for Fairbanks problems with PM 2.5 may be similar to those for carbon monoxide. Surrounded by hills on three sides, Fairbanks is susceptible to temperature inversions which trap a layer of cold air close to the ground. Even relatively small amounts of pollution can be trapped for days, even weeks, at a time. This leads to episodes of poor air quality. Cold weather (below -10 or -15F) also seems to increase the PM2.5 levels. Fine particulates are products of combustion - burning more fuel when it is colder - be it fuel oil, wood, coal, waste oil, or motor vehicle fuel - produces more PM2.5.
On December 14, 2009, portions of the Fairbanks North Star Borough were designated as being in 'non-attainment' for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) by the EPA. Additional information about the process can be found here.
The Fairbanks North Star Borough Air Quality Program's web page indicates the current Air Quality Index for Fairbanks. The page is usually updated morning and evening during the winter and during summertime smoke incursions. Click here for information on the current Fairbanks particulate matter (PM2.5) level.
The graph below shows the PM2.5 levels in Fairbanks from 1999 through 2009. The EPA health-based 24-hour standard was revised to be more stringent in December 2006. It was reduced from 65 ug/m3 to 35 ug/m3. Population growth, and a recent increase in the use of wood-fired devices seem responsible for a portion of the number of PM2.5 winter violations. The data came from the FNSB's downtown Federal Reference Method monitors which run every 3 days.(Click on the graph to see a larger version.)
The following chart shows the number of days the PM2.5 standard of 35 ug/m3 was exceeded during the past 6 winters in Fairbanks. The data came from the FNSB's daily PM2.5 monitors located in downtown Fairbanks.