Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Improving Air Quality Today

The air quality has improved a bit this morning and ash stopped falling over Seattle and environs.  

Yesterday, biking home from the UW my eyes started to burn a bit and my throat was irritated.  Many folks on the Burke-Gilman trail were wearing filter masks or had something over their mouth/nose.   Surreal.

Here is the latest map of air quality over the region and I attached a legend below.  Purple indicates air is unhealthy for everyone.  Beijing-level muck.   Spokane has been hit very hard (from the fires in Idaho and western Montana), as have some locations in central WA.


Seattle has seen some minor improvement, but the air is still heavily polluted with wood smoke.


Why have things improved a bit?  As shown by the time-height cross section of winds and temperatures above Seattle-Tacoma Airport, the easterly flow (from the east) that pushed the smoke into western Washington has weakened greatly.  And the offshore pressure difference (higher to the east of the Cascades, lower to the west) has dropped to near zero.

That's good.  But the winds are weak over western Washington, so the smoke isn't going anywhere fast.

The forecast time-height cross section (from today's WRF model run) at Seattle suggests increasing southwesterly winds later today, which will bring in cleaner marine air.  And even some REAL clouds (the darker green colors).


Cooler conditions will dominate through the weekend.  The worst is almost over.

Finally, many of you are concerned about Hurricane Irma.   Right now the latest US model forecast (GFS) brings a very powerful storm to the Florida coast and then up into Georgia/South Carolina (see forecast for Sunday at  5AM).  


Many of the other models are following a similar track, with storm skirting north of Puerto Rico, with an abrupt northward turn over southern Florida.  The models suggest the storm will slowly weaken before landfall, but intensity prediction are notoriously unreliable.


After an extended (12-year) hurricane drought for the U.S. coast, this year will bring at least two major storms.   Folks in Florida need to prepare for the worst.







18 comments:

Z said...

This has been such a weird summer. What's on tap for winter? Florida-like temps? Six-foot snow drifts?

The Weary Zebra said...



"After an extended (12-year) hurricane drought for the U.S. coast,"
I guess I don't understand. We've had several horizons) hurricanes in the last 12 years hit the east or south coast.

Dixon Gifford said...

Hi Cliff, Thanks for the update. You have previously written a post regarding the lack of need for air conditioning in our area. As a result of the mass migration of folks into the area for the "tech (aka amazon) boom" property developers have been rapidly building apartments but skimping on any sort of air filtration or AC. With no ventilation in these units the heat is trapped and increases exponentially with 87-90 deg F common place each summer evening.

As a result the only method of cooling these units is to force air from outside using a network of box fans which works well if the air outside is 1. Cooler and 2. Not polluted. This summer neither case has been reliable. Therefore the case of the PNW being a great place for "climate refugees" in the future is not strictly true as in the case of wildfires and/or volcanic eruptions citizens such as myself are forced to breathe polluted air in their homes. In states where AC is standard residents can stay indoors and circulate cool-filtered air which is better than nothing. As usual it will be the poorest among us who suffer the most. At my place of work the senior management, VP's, many of whom moved here from CA all have AC in their homes whilst the "rank and file" sweat it out in apartments. Yesterday morning I woke up to ash all over my apartment including my breakfast which i prep the night before due to the use of fans.

Seattle really needs to pass stricter building regulations if the future of living for my generation is apartments whilst the wealthy live in air conditioned houses. Any data you can supply that corroborates climate change with a higher incidence of wildfires (and thus smoke/ash) would be great to support this cause.

Paul said...

The Weary Zebra - Please name for us the several major hurricanes that have hit the US East coast over the last decade as until now, we have been in a record hurricane drought according to NOAA. This completely goes against Al Gore's 2005 prediction that major hurricanes would increase vastly in the next decade. It also goes to show how important Professor Mass's comments about exaggerating claims about AGW.

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/tropical-cyclones/201707

Steve Allwine said...

I've read that if Irma hits Florida as a CAT 4 storm, it'll be the first time in recorded history that the US mainland has been struck by two large storms in the same year. Is this statistic correct?

DM said...

He probably meant for the the SE coast. Per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Florida_hurricanes#Florida_major_hurricanes, the last hurricane to hit Florida was Wilma in 2005.

Jay Freeborne - Tax Resolution Talk said...

AS we see the fires burn up the Columbia River Gorge - another good argument for banning fireworks as you elegantly stated many blog posts ago.

Deek Deek said...

Cliff, I think the folks at the weather channel have been listening to you. They are talking about the uncertainties of the hurricanes path. They compared yesterdays prediction to todays and have shown the path projected by the GFS and the euro model (both are not much different at this point). They don't seem to hyping it but then its not necessary to hype winds of 185 mph and a pressure in the eye of 914 mb..

Orcas George said...

Hate to tell you this, but I live near the ocean and that air coming in is not very clean. We apparently are just getting the dirty air that headed out to sea yesterday back again. Anacortes in fact just hit the highest numbers for this round, now into unhealthy for sensitive groups.

JeffB said...

Always strikes me as ridiculous when people say that the weather is not normal. There is no normal in weather or climate. Weather and climate are changing all the time. The only constant is change.

Enjoy the ride.

Brad said...

How are the long-term weather forecasts shaping up? When might we expect season-ending events that will put out these fires and bring some relief?

Rebecca Timson said...

Here's the list I found. You can ignore the hyperbole where you find it, but the storms happened--right? https://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2017/08/24/all-hurricanes-hit-u-s-since-2005/598113001/

Ward said...

The NWS has been getting air quality forecasts quite wrong. Two days ago, they reported southerly winds will push the smoke out, but--- here were are 48 hours later with plenty of smoke still about. The clear out is extremely slow, and much slower than the NWS has suggested. Now, the smoke has pushed out quite far to sea, and cold front on the map looks quite weak-- so who knows how long it will be until we see blue skies again.

Placeholder said...

@Z, it's shaping up to be another severe winter in the Columbia Gorge. The deer are bunching up, which is a good sign.

Joseph Ratliff said...

I agree with Ward. The Seattle office's forecast discussion has kept "teasing" like the smoke will finally start clearing out ... only to have next morning's run "tease" it again.

Plus, WA State / OR State Governments need to start examining their "Fire Response" protocols and resources, especially in the face of upcoming decades of what will likely be warmer / drier Summers. This smoke situation is outright unacceptable.

And, I'm all for stricter management of campfires during fire season, and stronger legal penalties for "giggling people who throw firecrackers into a 'Gorge kindling box'" ... so long as that extra management is in addition to (not in lieu of) getting these fire seasons under better control.

Of course I'm a realist too, and realize the above likely won't change much for a whole bunch of reasons (some legitimate, some not), even though it needs to.

Paul said...

Rebecca Timson - The record hurricane draught was for Cat. 3 or higher storms .

Eric Blair said...

Many of the Gorge's most scenic areas are being burned to the ground, and all because of a few teenagers who acted like complete jerks. Sad beyond belief, but at least no one was killed or seriously injured (a dozen hikers who suddenly found themselves right above the flames were rescued, but only just).

Rebecca Timson said...

They mean it departs significantly from the average range in the historical record. So they could use more precise language, yes, but we do need to look beyond "normal" variation as we know it. We learn a lot from trying to understand the "what", "why" and "how" of the extraordinary.