Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - With the long-lasting high-pressure system that has been parked over western Montana for the past few weeks, the lack of air movement could bring some possible health problems for those with respiratory problems.

KGVO News spoke to Missoula City-County Health Department Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield on Monday about the possible effects of the stagnant air.

“We might have noticed that we had this really beautiful prolonged period of warm, sunny, unusually warm fall weather and that is because we have a high-pressure ridge that has just been kind of moving over the area and building and getting really centered over western Montana,” began Coefield. “This high-pressure ridge gives us these nice warm sunny days but also prevents the air from moving.”

Coefield said this still air will trap any pollutants that may be in the area.

“Unfortunately that means that any pollutant we create is going to be stuck near our valleys floors and inversions are going to take a really long time to break,” she said. “And so any pollution just isn't going to go anywhere. So it is really kind of stagnant conditions. It's warm and it will continue to be warm and sunny.”

Coefield said air quality can go from good to moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups, and that those with respiratory problems need to be especially aware of the changes.

“If we get into ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’, that's when we might start seeing a need for folks to kind of start slowing down and limiting their exposure to the pollution,” she said. “But we have to kind of wait and see if we get there. I'm hopeful the consensus is going to be about three days of really still air and then by Thursday, just start to see that really breaking up and start to see a front and start to see things really ventilating out. That'll give us a break.”

Coefield said there are many ways in which incoming air pollution can affect people in the Missoula valley.

“If people are having campfires or if they are driving their cars using their woodstoves or all these other sources of air pollution as that builds up that can affect anybody who is breathing,” she said.  “So certainly pay attention to how you’re responding to the pollution levels, watch the pollution levels and take care of yourself and your health as best you can.”

The National Weather Service said there is an Air Stagnation Advisory until 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 20. Rain is likely to begin on Friday night and there is a chance of rain and snow by Sunday into next Monday.

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