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Haze prompts air warning

Haze, would you buzz off?

Friday morning haze made the Sandia Mountains almost indistinguishable and prompted a city air quality warning, but its source was not entirely agreed upon between local air quality and weather agencies.

Did it come from early-morning humidity that, according to the National Weather Service, absorbed dust and smoke particles left over from Thursday winds and small fires in northern Mexico and Arizona?

Or was it simply the vestiges of a plume of smoke sent out of a dwindling fire near Nogales, Ariz., as the city’s Environmental Health Department argues?

Either way, neither agency is clear whether the haze will continue to loom over Albuquerque or for how long. Jeff Stonesifer, a spokesman from the city’s Air Quality Division, said the amount of haze in the coming days depends on how long the Soldier Basin Fire in southeastern Arizona continues burning.

“How they got their opinion that it was dust or humidity, we don’t know,” Stonesifer said. “But we can look at the data that we have: It’s smoke.”

The presence of “fine particulates” like smoke increased two or three times what is normal on Friday, Stonesifer said. Dust is too heavy to hang in the air unless high winds carry it, he said. Also, the Soldier Basin Fire was 70 percent contained Friday.

The National Weather Service, however, attributed the haze to a front that pushed moisture over the Sandias on Friday. That humidity soaked up little bits of dust and smoke from nearby fires, NWS meteorologist Jason Frazier said. Humidity increased from 5 percent to more than 51 percent from Thursday night into Friday morning.

Frazier also said smoke typically snakes through the valley before it rises around the Sandias, but that didn’t happen Friday. Whether the haze continues to linger depends on how much of it is made up of smoke, he said, but he expects it to continue to “redevelop” in the mornings at least through Monday.

“It’s really, honestly, ‘wait and see,’ ” he said.