Well, that was a first. I'm referring to the smoke we experienced this summer from the Canadian wildfires.

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I never expected to see that much thick, smelly smoke flowing through our air from so far away. But there it was, in our face and into our lungs. Not a good experience.

Is there a better way to track wildfire and smoke patterns, I ask? Well, according to Cornell University, there is an answer to that question.

In an article published in October 2023,  Alistair Hayden, Assistant Professor of Practice in the Department of Public and Ecosystem Health, is working on the completion of installing air-quality sensors in 28 New York State counties that currently do not have one. Looking at the map, Broome County has 6 sensors.

This effort is a joint venture of the Department of Public and Ecosystem Health in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Cornell Cooperative Extension. The department is involved with emerging environmental threats that involve the interdependent health of people, animals, and ecosystems.

According to the article, Alistair Hayden detailed the project:

When the wildfire smoke hit New York, I received questions from partners around the state. In talking to officials from around the state, it quickly bubbled up that many upstate communities had no data about their air quality. Smoke and population health was a concern, and we found that 28 of New York’s 62 counties did not have a single air-quality sensor able to detect fine particulate matter of at least 2.5 microns (PM2.5), which is the main component of wildfire smoke. The next time we have wildfires and smoke – and it will happen again – all of us will be very glad that these sensors are in place. Now, we’ll get more localized, tangible, complete and readily accessible information.- Alistair Hayden

These sensors allow state and federal agencies to observe smoke plumes in real time, collect data, and issue precise, timely alerts to the public. Local counties having new sensors installed that currently have none, include Chemung, Chenango, Delaware, and Schuyler.

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