During the past week two major wildfires have initiated and spread to thousand of acres here in the Northwest: the Mile Marker 28 fire near Satus Pass in south central Washington and the Colockum Tarps fire south of Wenatchee. And meteorological issues threaten to make the fire situation worse at the end of the week.
Sunday morning's visible satellite image (at 8AM) shows lots of smoke in eastern Washington (mainly from the Satus Pass fire.
The Colockum Pass fire increased in size during the day (see satellite image around 7 PM Sunday below). Some thunderstorms developed over the north Cascades and if you look closely you can see a cumulus cloud in the middle of the Colockum Pass smoke plume. The heat was sufficient to cause the air to become highly buoyant, producing a tall cumulus cloud-- called pyrocumulus.
And amazing picture from"Sooperfly". The smoke rises to a level at which it is no longer buoyant and spreads downwind. The cumulus cloud, with extra warmth from the release of latent heat (heat is released as water is condensed) can rise even higher.
A very clear satellite image of the smoke from the fires was available earlier Sunday afternoon from the NASA MODIS satellite:
A big issue for the Colockum fire (and to a lesser degree the Satus Pass fire) has been the strong westerly winds pushing eastward down the Cascade foothills on Sunday, forced by a strong pressure difference across the Cascades. This strong winds and large pressure difference are associated with the cooler air that has moved into the west side of the mountains.
Here are the maximum winds for the 24h ending 9 PM Sunday. Lots of locations getting to 20-30 mph, a number reaching 30-40 mph. Not good for fighting fires.
The UW WRF model predicted the strong winds on Sunday (see graphic for 5 PM), but forecasts a major weakening on Monday...which should be a boon to the firefighters.
Here is the current fire danger map from the USDA Forest Service. Eastern Washington has a substantial risk, but eastern Oregon and Idaho are even drier.