You may have noticed how bad the visibility is in Central Texas today. There seems to have been a steady decline in air quality and visibility over the past few days, and on the Noon weathercast, I opined that it was probably smoke from agricultural burning in Mexico and Central America. (As I understand it, the seasonal burning there is in preparation for planting new crops. I did a little digging this afternoon and found that, indeed, there is a large smoke plume across the western Gulf of Mexico, moving toward and into Texas from southern Mexico and adjacent areas of Central America. The image below is from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) website. You can check this out for yourself at this link:
TCEQ also issues daily forecasts for air quality, and they, too, have taken note of the smoke plume that extends into Texas. Today's forecast says, in part: "Smoke from agricultural burning in Mexico and Central America with "Moderate" fine particulate levels should cover most of the eastern two-thirds of the state mainly along and east of a line from Sanderson to Childress. The highest smoke concentrations will likely be in South Texas where fine particulate could approach or possibly reach "Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups". " You can follow the TCEQ daily forecasts at this link: http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/compliance/monitoring/air/monops/forecast_today.html
As long as we have a strong south-southeasterly flow across the Gulf and into Texas, and as long as the agricultural burning persists, we can expect to have periods of hazy skies and poor visibility. Hopefully, we won't see a repeat on what happened in 1998, when the fires in Mexico and Central America got out of control and burned as wildfires. A public health alert was issued in Texas because the smoke was very dense and particulate levels very high. Perhaps you recall May of 1998 ... you could actually smell the odor of smoke for days at a time!