Kansas Smoke Model web site now active for 2015

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One of the key elements of the Kansas Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan is the smoke modeling decision-aid tools. The tools can be found at:

Producers in the Flint Hills region are encouraged to use these tools as part of their prescribed burn planning. The purpose is to help avoid air quality problems that have been associated with the burning of an average of 2,500,000 acres in the region each spring. The Cumulative Fire Impacts page has a map showing the potential for each area to negatively impact air quality at a monitoring site in Kansas or southeastern Nebraska. Smoke from fires in areas that are colored red have a high possibility of decreasing air quality in a monitor location. Fires in yellow areas also have an elevated chance of negatively impacting air quality. 

The graphics below are March 5 screen shots from the web site to illustrate this feature.  

The map shows two days at a time. Before noon, the maps are for the current day and the next day. After noon, the maps are for the next day and the day after. Areas coded red for the current day may be coded green on the following day. Producers can opt to hold off burning for a day if weather conditions are changing and the prediction is for reduced smoke impacts the following day. For example, in the graphic above, Pottawatomie County goes from red on March 5 to green for March 6, indicating a reduced chance of a burn in that county impacting air quality by waiting a day to burn.

Near the bottom of the page is a very brief forecast discussion, including an extended forecast for the Flint Hills region. This can also assist a producer in deciding whether to postpone a burn and wait for improved dispersion conditions.

It is important to note that the map is for smoke dispersion only. It does not provide any information on other important prescribed burning weather conditions, such as wind speed, temperature, and humidity (e.g. 5-15 mph, 40-80 F, and 40-70%). Dispersion is generally excellent on days that are otherwise too windy to burn safely.

Producers are strongly requested to refrain from starting a prescribed burn on the days when a fire in their area would cause air quality problems at a monitoring site (when their area of the map is colored red or yellow). Kansas monitoring sites can be found on the map below.

For most producers, knowing the “cumulative fire impacts” prediction for their area is adequate. But there’s a second tool that producers can use to see specifically where a plume of smoke is forecasted to go from their fire. This modeling tool can be found on the tab “Your Fire Impacts.”

To use this tool, producers enter their location, estimated fuel load, and number of acres to be burned. The model will generate an image of the smoke plume movement from their burn. Often you can see by the plume movement why a region would be coded red, as the plume moves directly over a monitoring location.

The modeling tools are also available in a format for mobile devices. http://ksfire.sonomatechdata.com/view/mobile/

Besides the tools discussed above, the website ksfire.org has a plethora of other information related to prescribed burning and links to the Kansas Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan, weather, county burn regulations (partial list), and much more.

The Kansas Smoke Management Facebook page, found at https://www.facebook.com/ksfire, provides information updates about smoke management and fire in the Flint Hills, especially before and during the spring burn season.

Spreading out the burn season is another way to reduce air quality problems. Evaluate your burn objectives. Increased yearling steer weight gains are one of the primary reasons burning is conducted in April. If you are burning for a different objective, burning at times other than April reduces smoke concentration and can lead to fewer air quality problems. K-State agronomist Clenton Owensby’s research in the Flint Hills on steer weight gains is summarized below.

Effect of Time of Burning on Steer Gains

Time of Burn

Weight Gain (lbs)



Early Spring




Late Spring


*April is considered late spring in this context.



Three Extension publications are available on air quality related to prescribed burning,

Fire Management Practices to Improve Air Quality

Air Quality Concerns of Prescribed Range Burning in Kansas http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/bookstore/Item.aspx?catId=364&pubId=16940

Fire Management Practices Used to Reduce the Impacts of Smoke Before, During, and After a Burn

Weather Tool

The National Weather Service has numerous tools to assist prescribed burners in planning a burn. Two that are often used are the Hourly Weather Forecast and the Weather Activity Planner.

A general forecast can be obtained for a location by entering a zip code or city and county in the bar in the upper left hand corner of the National Weather Service home page http://www.weather.gov/.

This forecast is for about a 3 square mile area. To obtain a forecast closer to the burn unit, slide the map on the right hand side of the page so that the location of the burn unit is in the center of the map. This will generate a forecast for the new location.

The Hourly Weather Forecast is a graphical version of the forecast for the next 48 hours. It includes when changes in wind speed, wind direction, and humidity can be expected during the day. By clicking extra boxes at the top of the form, transport winds, mixing height, and Haines Index can be added to the graph. The Hourly Weather Forecast can be accessed from an icon located in the lower right hand side of the forecast page.


The Weather Activity Planner allows you to set the parameters you need for a burn and will return the times during the next 7 days when those weather conditions will be met. It can be accessed from the National Weather Service page for each forecast area.  The Flint Hills forecast areas are Topeka http://www.crh.noaa.gov/top/ and Wichita http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ict/. In the blue bar on the left side of the home page under Forecasts, select Activity Planner.

In summary, use the smoke model (http://ksfire.sonomatechdata.com/view/summary/) to predict where the smoke plume will go and check specific conditions with the National Weather Service to see if it is safe to burn.


Carol Blocksome, Range Management Specialist

Walt Fick, Range Management Specialist