Sunday, August 12, 2018

Dense Canadian Smoke Veil Moves Southward over Washington State

There are many Canadian imports we value, such as maple syrup and wood products, but one we would rather do without:  smoke from major wildfires in British Columbia.  And a major push southward of Canadian smoke is occurring as I write this. 

The smoke was obvious in the MODIS satellite image around noon, with low clouds beneath the smoke, west of the Cascade crest.


Most of these clouds subsequently burned off, with lots of smoke still aloft (see picture for the GOES satellite around 4 PM)


The smoke was quite dense but was mainly aloft, leaving air quality decent near the surface.   But the sky is very hazy and the sun has that weakened yellow/red look to it.    For example, the latest image from the Seattle PanoCam shows the smoke clearly.


And those hiking at Sunrise on Mt. Rainier did not see blue skies.


Yesterday in contrast had very, very clear skies.  What happened?

The passage of an upper level low and trough. 

Prior to the low passage, there was lots of Canadian smoke aloft, since southerly flow precedes the upper level low (see my previous blog).  As the low passed yesterday, the winds aloft first were first southwesterly/westerly, bringing in clean air from off the Pacific). But as the low passed by, the winds became northerly aloft which moved smoke from fires in BC southward (see upper level, 500 hPa, about 18,000 ft, map at 5 AM Sunday, winds are shown by the wind barbs)


And the upper level map for tomorrow morning (11 AM Monday) shows that the northerly flow is not over.

As many of you know by now, I am a great enthusiast for the wonderful experimental HRRR-SMOKE model run by NOAA ESRL.  Here is the vertical total of smoke amount for 2 PM Sunday from HRRR-Smoke.  Red is very smoky.  You can see lots of smoke moving southward into NW Washington, with cleaner air over northern Oregon.  The California smoke wa heading to the east and then northeast, missing us.


 By 9 AM Monday, substantial smoke is over all of WA state and CA smoke is moving northward again into Oregon.


And by late Monday evening, the two smoke sources combine, producing substantial haze over the entire Northwest.


And now the bad news: the winds over the Cascades will become easterly tomorrow and eastern WA smoke will push westward over the Cascades, with smoke pushing down to the surface (see surface smoke forecast for tomorrow at 7PM).  Our decent air quality may be over---so if you are vulnerable, take the appropriate precautions.


21 comments:

BAMCIS said...

The new normal for August. Everyone still in love with summer?

Stephen Fry said...

Human-caused global warming strikes again! Some say PDO, but it's without a doubt that a vast majority of this smoke is the result of the massive generation of GHG by humankind! The planet is using particulate plumes from burnt vegetation, as a way to deflect sunlight - in an attempt to save mother earth.

Deek Geek said...

I'm really starting to hate August. I live in the Methow Valley and will be in Seattle most of the week. Sorry to bring this crap with me. The Air Quality Index has been unhealthy to very unhealthy for many days now (except yesterday). The highest reading I saw was an AQI of 800 just downwind of the fire in the Twisp river valley. Note that the color rating scale on the AQI only goes to 500 (hazardous).

Sabre22 said...

Not just washinton State Bad Smoke here in Montana as well.

jeff said...

Most fires are human caused. More people, more fires.

Colleen said...

New normal indeed. Wait half the summer for snowmelt on trails up at Baker, and just when hiking should be optimal, the smoke settles in.

JordanP said...

I was joking with a co-worker from California that Washington is going to start imposing a carbon tax on all the stuff they're sending this way. Maybe we should go after Canada as well. So far the low-level air is still really clean, but we do have that eerie reddish orange light that comes with the high level smoke. Voting for it staying up there for another day or two.

Ansel said...

Deek,

Yes, August used to be one of our finest months. I hope these last few Augusts are anomalies, but now, I am not so sure. It seems to be becoming "the new normal"

Where's the traditional (before about yr. 2000) lake August rain?

RLL said...

Smoke visible by about 500 feet away, and 3 miles of so across Sinclair Inlet major blurring.

Aram Attarashany said...

Two words - NOT AGAIN. I don’t want to listen to the AC 24/7 I want to open windows at night

Flying Bear said...

I'm sure the Maple Fire in the Olympics isn't helping. Much of the smoke that I can actually smell up on Whidbey right now is coming from that fire, which is by the Hamma Hamma River and the Lena Lake Campground.

Question for you: Are we seeing a longer term trend of having longer dry seasons over Western Washington?

Mike DeMarco said...

Quite the shift from that Friday forecast of yours, Cliff.

Alex said...

God, the whining in here.

Patrick said...

Very dense smoke layer in the San Juans today. Our solar panels are producing at least 30% reduced output. :(

TW B said...

I can recall my undergraduate days at UC Santa Barbara where we would watch the water bombers take on the fires in the hills in September. By October they were out and there were no fires at all until late summer. Relatives there say that fires are almost a year round event now.
When I started my first job in western Oregon in the early 70s I remember how few fires there were. Some localized smoke was all. When I started graduate school at UW in the 70s the summers here were great. I do not recall any smoke issues and hardly any fires in the West, some grass fires in the East with an occasional forest fire but nothing major except one big one in Entiat. Not the case anymore. Hard to believe this is all due to forest management, it wasn't good back then either.

Eric Blair said...

Everyone talks about August being so hot, try July over the past six years here in Portland. We broke another record for 90+ degree days for July, well in excess of double digits. I'm beginning to miss the hot summers in the Midwest, since at least there you don't experience the smoke along with the heat.

Kevin D said...

I went out and did a bike ride around Lake Stevens today and it looked like the smoky haze extended all the way down to lake level. All I could think about was that haze and temps in the 70's is still vastly preferable to what the weather will be for the six whole months after October 15. As someone who enjoys going outside and doing things active, I wouldn't shed a tear if the next time I felt a drop of rain on my head was sometime in November.

Pinocchio said...

Is was pretty gross up at Artist Point yesterday. The forecast said the clouds were going to dissipate in the afternoon, and when they did - smoke was revealed.

Andrew Lincicome said...

Watch Suspicious Observers on YouTube. Global warming theories get shredded by real, unbiased, scientific information.

Andrew Lincicome said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Andrew Lincicome said...

I'll take smoke over tornados anytime.