Wednesday, August 2, 2017

SMOKEZILLA Versus the Heat Wave

Today was one of the smokiest days ever in western Washington as the surge of smoke from the fires in British Columbia continued to push southward.  The dense smoke, a.k.a. SMOKEZILLA, was thick enough to appreciably reduce the amount of solar radiation reaching the surface and resulted in cooler temperatures than forecast.   Seattle only hit 91F and Portland topped out at 103F, both locations 3-5F cooler than expected.

SMOKEZILLA was impressive in today's satellite imagery.  The visible satellite imagery at 8 AM, was stunning, with smoke spreading across the lowlands and coastal zone.


The MODIS image around 1 PM shows amazingly dense smoke over NW Washington, with smoke around the entire region, including a plume headed out into the Pacific.


A colleague of mine, Gary Lackmann of NC State, took this picture today from his plane leaving Sea Tac....smoke nearly to the top of Rainier!

Air quality was unhealthy for much of western Washington and a burn ban is in place.  The concentrations of particulates surged higher than yesterday, with locations such as Neah Bay's Cheeka Peak getting to Beijing levels.


What really impressed me was the reduction in solar radiation by the smoke.  Comparing the radiation received today against two days ago, revealed a drop of 11-14% in intensity.  As a result, the high temperatures were clearly suppressed by 3-5F.  Seattle-Tacoma Airport "only" reached 91F, when 95F was expected.  Portland peaked at 103F, when 107-108F was predicted. 

So SMOKEZILLA clearly took the edge off the heat-wave monster.  His (or her) services will be needed tomorrow, which should be the warmest of the sequence in Seattle (around 94F).  But there is a downside to the smoke monster....it could well keep the temperatures up overnight (Wed to Thursday) since it will slow the loss of infrared energy to space from the surface.

And did I mention that Quillayute on the northwest Olympic Peninsula coast got to 99F, tying the ALL TIME RECORD HIGH FOR ANY DATE.  And  that was with smoke.

And believe it or not, air quality was MUCH better in Beijing today than in Seattle...here is proof:












32 comments:

diforbes said...

Now you've done it. The media will be all over the "smokezilla" thing :-)

Guy Fleischer said...

Thank you for confirming my hypothesis regarding the haze on today's temperature: remember Mt.Pinatubo eruption?

Rod said...

I have lived in the Seattle area since 1964 and can not recall smoke to this extreme. Prior to 1964, I lived in Yakima, and when the orchardists lit those smudge pots in the cold springs it was hell in the valley. Unbelievable that they could get away with that.

Dave White said...

Do your models indicate how long these northerly flows might last?

Unknown said...

When is this going to end?

joe mama said...

welp....to all the whiners complaining about the heat wave, be careful what ya wish for. i'd rather have the heat than all this damn smoke.

RLL said...

Res smoke and sunrise in downtown Bremerton, we could not see the sun when first risen, it has emerged from the smoke and we can briefly look at it directly, I'd guess about 10 times as bright as the moon. We can see land masses opposite us, Washington Narrows, Sinclair inlet, and toward Rich Passage but heavily Obscured.

Mike Ardington said...

Cliff, I recall a day in the early 80's... 81? when I was working in Taholah and living in Hoquiam... and, while I'm a bit hazy on this, I believe it was late May - early June. We had one day where it hit 99-100. I'm kind of surprised Quillayute's 99 was an all time high... anyway, I'm ready for this to end ASAP.

Unknown said...

After the eclipse? Buahahaha

Dan said...

Smokezilla is admittedly unpleasant, but I have a harder time dealing with the Dewpoint Fairy. The water content of the air is noticeably higher, and mornings have a hint of that East Coast sticky feel.

Yechhh!

Walli Kay said...

That's what I want to know!!!

Jennie and Steve said...

We are "losing" about 6 KWH/day on our solar array post smoke compared to pre smoke days. Who do we sue? ;-) Up here in Bellingham we may have a bit more smoke as there is a fire between Chuckanut and Blanchard Mts. Hope they get it out quickly.

Theresa H said...

When will the smoke clear?

Ansel said...

This is appalling. When I moved here in the 70's this smoke business only happened briefly every 3-4 years. Now is seems to be almost every year- and it is more acute.

Global warming indeed. Plus a legacy of fire suppression, which, apparently, eventually comes back to haunt us.

Nancy Helm said...

What is the Seattle record for highest nighttime low? Seems like we could break that one.

OneTwoThree said...

Absolutely none of my iPhone weather apps even mentions the smoke or its effect. If I didn't also have air quality apps and you, I'd never have known. This needs correcting. Air quality is definitely part of the weather, unless you're a robot.

Colleen said...

Pretty awful three days running here in north Whatcom County. Haven't seen smoke to this extent, and for this length of time, in the 21 years I've lived here. The stagnant air and unusually high humidity are making for some extremely unpleasant and unhealthy conditions. Not seeing a lot of relief in sight, either.

~ Colleen

Bob Hall said...

Is the poor air quality on par with the *average* air quality in places like Beijing?

Alex said...

How many high quality air days does Beijing get in a year? Yeah this 'smokezilla' is once a decade event in the PacWest, otherwise our air quality is just about tops in the world ALL year long.

Beetlecat said...

@Joe Mamma: We can certainly have less heat and less smoke, simultaneously. ;) If it were raining, the smoke would be flushed out of the air. ;)

Casey Connor said...

Cliff -- really appreciate these smoke updates, but the question on everyone's mind is if you have any prediction of when the smoke will clear? Are there any shifts in wind direction in the near forecast? I have a full-moon/stars photograph I'm aiming for this weekend and it will be ruined by any haze. Thanks!

John K. said...

Joe - there is a very interesting relationship between the high temperatures and the presence of the smoke in our area. (No, it's not the relationship between fire and heat). Cliff has explained this in past posts. See if you can find those and learn about it.

Robert Riekkola said...

Was the high temperature at UIL 98F or 99F? The NWS F-6 shows 98F.

Robert Riekkola said...

Was the high temperature at UIL 98F or 99F? The NWS F-6 shows 98F.

Cecil Paradiso said...

I believe it was 72 overnight of 7/29/09 during our record heat wave. 103 that day in Seattle broke the all time record.

annette said...

I'm slowly heading south from the northern Canadian Gulf Islands and smoke is getting considerably less dense.

Unknown said...

I can't smell the smoke.
Neither does it burn my eyes or irritate my lung. It's just odd to look at.

August. In like a smokezilla out like a.....?...

Dan Tomandl said...

So Smokezilla allows less heat to reach the surface. Where does the energy go? Reflected? Upper atmosphere and then stays there? (mixing?)

A Non Mouse 42 said...

a bit hazy.... i see what you did there

Zeesal said...

We closed on our house that week, so I very vividly remember that heat wave. However am I wrong in recalling the record high on 8/3/09 as being hotter here in Redmond WA (with a daytime high of 107)? Poor movers were ready to keel over.

Richard Flanigan said...

What are the odds of 89 degrees and free windows on Sunday?

Mr. Whipple said...

Wunderground does. Particulate matter currently listed at 158/500, "unhealthy."