Why Air Quality Was So Oppressive During Last Year's Wildfire Season

Jul 16, 2021

California’s 2020 wildfire season was indisputably historic: Fires burned a record-high 4.3 million acres in the state, and five of the blazes went down among the 10 largest in our recorded history. Many were touched off by widespread lightning sieges, which hadn’t occurred at such a high rate since 2008.

Likewise, this confluence of events led to unusually high levels of acrid smoke blowing into the Valley, at times from all directions. Throughout the region, the air quality index (AQI) in September and October of 2020 reached higher levels and for longer periods of time than almost any other year in the last two decades.


In this interview, FM89’s Kerry Klein crunched some historic air quality data and compared notes with Jon Klassen, Director of Air Quality Science & Planning with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.