ROCKTON—The National Weather Service (NWS) continues to monitor various atmospheric conditions in connection with the ongoing Chemtool fire response in Rockton, according to a representative at the Milwaukee-Sullivan NWS station.
Meteorologist Cameron Miller said the nearby weather reporting station was closely watching wind direction and wind speed, mixed with various conditions in the atmosphere, to alert municipalities and the public.
“We really have a variety of things we can do to monitor wind direction, from surface-level observations, forecast models and dispersal long-range models,” Miller said.
Miller said the station used the dispersal models, which allow meteorologists to add multiple variables into a data set to create condition predictions for a wider regional area.
“We can use that for large fires and at the request of an emergency management office if they want to know if there’s an evacuation radius or other precautions that need to be in place,” Miller added.
Winds on Monday remained out of the north, blowing the massive smoke plume south all day. On Tuesday, winds shifted to a westerly direction, he said.
“As the fire is more contained, we will see atmospheric conditions improve,” Miller said.
Air quality concerns can be monitored by tracking what’s known as the inversion height of a given atmospheric front. During the day, that inversion height is much higher than in the evening, when the atmosphere settles, in turn dropping any smoke or debris plume lower in the atmosphere.
“At night is typically when we see the worst air quality following large fires,” Miller said.
Monday’s fire at Chemtool was so large it was tracked on doppler radar and visible from satellite imaging in low-Earth orbit.
“We were able to track where the smoke plume was going through our dispersal models and that helped us inform Beloit’s emergency management response after they contacted our office,” Miller said.
Residents have been asked not to touch debris from the fire with their bare hands.