Air Quality Alert

We are under an air quality alert starting yesterday, continuing into today, and perhaps ending tomorrow. The bad air has nothing to do with anything around here — apparently, upper-level wind patterns are bringing in smoke from fires in states far to west of here, such as California and Oregon. Oddly, at the same time, we are under a flood watch, also not because of anything happening around here. We haven’t had much rain to speak of in months, though heavy rains in other areas of the state have pushed huge amounts of water into one of the local rivers.

It just goes to show that as isolated as we are out here on the eastern plains of Colorado, no place is really isolated any more.

Situations like this remind me of a bizarre conversation I had with a woman from my grief group in California. At the time, just like today, there were large swaths of wildfire in that state. I mentioned almost as an aside, that when I lived on the western slope of Colorado, a mere thirty miles east of the Utah border, I could always tell when fires were raging in California because of the strong smoke smell.

The woman became incensed, called me ignorant, and said that because of her science background, she knew that there was no way for me to smell smoke at that distance. I was flabbergasted, of course, and puzzled, not just because of her reaction to an innocent remark, but at how wrong she was. I don’t remember what exactly her background was, but I do seem to remember that although she wasn’t a scientist, she was telling the truth about her jobs having something to do with science. But she certainly wasn’t telling the truth about the inability to smell smoke that originated a thousand miles away. I explained about air currents, about jet streams, about wind, about all the ways smoke can be carried to distant places. I even mentioned studies showing that odors are made up of minute particles that bind to receptors in the nose, and that these particles can be blown in from far away, or merely waft in on a breeze.

Nothing I said made any difference. She continued to harangue me about her science background and my ignorance until I finally just shrugged and agreed that I didn’t have a science background, and refrained from mentioning the thousands of scientific books I’ve read.

Now that I live in an area that routinely gets inundated with out-of-state smoke, as well as the air quality alerts that result from that smoke, I’m frequently reminded of her and her utter belief that I couldn’t smell smoke that originated more than a thousand miles away.

Incidentally, the fire in the photo is the sun as it was rising through the smoke this morning, and is not a result of an earth-bound fire.


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8 Responses to “Air Quality Alert”

  1. annemariedemyen Says:

    We get smoke here from fires up in the northern area of our province. I cannot imagine what it is like up there, where the fires actually are.
    It is strange how some people would rather have others believe they are complete idiots, rather than just admitting that they had obviously misspoken.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      That’s true — it must be horrible where the fires are. I am grateful all I have to deal with is the smoke, even when it is bad.

      • Uthayanan Says:

        One of my language teacher explained to me her father was a meteorologist specialist. But when he want to climb of a mountain on his holidays he ask the some old people who lives around there before to climb. And there’s predication helped him always.
        It seems that you are going to get little rain today after 17 hours (from 5 pm) and tomorrow if it is reliable that will help to make better the polluted climate.
        Sensibility is different from people to people specially animals scientists can’t always explain lots of animals learn very fast from far away when there’s is fire in a forest.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          That’s true about sensibility — I am very sensitive to smoke, so even if no one else cn smell it, I can.

          • Uthayanan Says:

            Me and my wife were very sensitive and sensible with smoke. Never smoked cigarettes. The same with the smoke from urban transport. Any smoke unhealthy we try to avoid from our everyday life. I can understand your sensibility . It is not strange for me that others can’t. It is your nature and your personality.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            I was so delighted when restaurants and businesses became non-smoking areas. No one but people like me cared until the research showed how terrible second-hand smoke is.

  2. Joe Says:

    It always amazes me that people flip out about other people’s experience, things that are individual and personal, like sensitivity to air quality changes, or mental trauma, or a personal illness, a brain injury, etc. That would be a bit like me, as a man, trying to invalidate a woman’s experience of PMS or related women’s health issues, just because it isn’t something I personally have experienced (and I know plenty of men who attempt to dismiss it…) Just express sympathy or understanding, and move on as best as possible after a suitable amount of time. The need to freak out and challenge someone’s experience so as to invalidate them is not something one needs to waste energy on and there’s far too much of it happening on all sides.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      You’re right, it is amazing what people flip out about. When I was in California taking care of my dad, I kept my Colorado residency by renting a tiny space because I didn’t know how long I would be there, and it was just easier. I still did jury duty. Once I was excused because of needing to take care of my father. Once they were kind to me and said that if the trial was cancelled, which it was, they’d leave me on the books as having done my duty without my having to reschedule. And once I actually went — drove all the way back to Colorado only to find out that the trial had been cancelled. When an acquaintance found out, she got horrendously angry, though I never knew why. I would have thought she’d see the quirkiness of it. But apparently not.

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