Air quality continues to fluctuate between healthy and hazardous levels throughout Southcentral due to wildfires continuing to burn in the region. There are currently more than 200 wildfires around the state.

With so many different fires emitting smoke into the atmosphere, air quality can quickly change. Those changes often happen faster than updates or advisories can be issued, but there is a way you can tell how unhealthy the air is at any given moment. 

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Visibility and air quality are closely related when it comes to smoke. Reduced air quality correlates to reduced visibility. Or simply, the more haze there is in the sky, the less healthy the air. 

Here is a general guide to air quality as it relates to visibility in wildfire smoke:


Air Quality

10+ miles


6 – 9 miles


3 – 5 miles

Unhealthy for sensitive groups

1.5 – 2.5 miles


0.9 – 1.4 miles

Very Unhealthy

0.8 miles or less


When it comes to what each category and how the hazards break down for each individual, there is a set of rules to follow.

This is just a general guideline; be sure to check with your doctor for your individual concerns and needs. 

In Anchorage, a good way to determine visibility is to use the mountains. Depending on what part of town you are in, the Chugach Mountains are just about the right distance to determine whether or not the air is healthy. A basic rule of thumb is, if you can't see the mountains, the air is unhealthy. Based on what part of town you are in, you can look at the mountains to determine the current level of air quality. 

Visibility is typically measured at the surface or ground, but the mountains work as a good point of reference. Keep in mind, in smoke, mountains can often rise above the smoky haze— skewing the true visibility. 

With little rain in the forecast, smoke and air quality will likely remain concerns in the near future. Before strenuous activity outside, a quick check of visibility is a great way to tell if the air is healthy or not. 

Haze in the atmosphere doesn't mean the air is unhealthy. On the flip side, there doesn't have to be haze for the atmosphere to be unhealthy. A good resource for information on current air quality is always

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