Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Smoke Storm Hits Washington State

The rising sun this morning in Seattle has that other worldly red-yellow color and a thick haze lays over western Washington.

The reason?  Massive amounts of smoke has made its was southward from the wildfires in British Columbia and westward from the several fires in eastern Washington.
Seattle at 6:23 AM Tuesday.  Can you see the sun?
A video drone ascent on northern Kitsap (provided by Greg Johnson of Skunk Bay Weather) dramatically shows the murk:


The latest Washington State Air Quality Map shows unhealthy conditions over western Washington, with some locations (like Port Angeles, Cheeka Peek near Tatoosh, and several locations on the eastern slopes of the Cascades) reaching very unhealthy and hazardous conditions.


In fact, air quality is better in Beijing right now (see graphic)


Yesterday's noon image from the NASA MODIS satellite over the region was stunning.  You can see the smoke moving into western WA from Canada and eastern WA and there was an amazing, long smoke front over southern Washington.

Here is Seattle (Puget Sound Clean Air Agency Duwamish site), the smoke (PM.5) surged yesterday afternoon, peaking this morning to around 80 mg per cubic meter (1-hr average).


This was by far the highest value this summer.  To give you some context, here is the same plot since late May.  Nothing close.  There was a minor peak on July 4/5 of about 1/3 the value.


Solar radiation is being substantially reduced by the smoke.  Here are plots on the UW Atmospheric Sciences roof for yesterday and August 9th (before the smoke).  Down about 14%.  The result will be substantially cooling of today's highs by at least 5 F based on recent experience with our WRF model.
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 The densest smoke is found at the lowest elevations.  Paradise (5500 ft) is on the edge and Camp Muir (about 10,000 ft) is above the gunk (see picture)



The good news is that low level air quality should improve later today over Puget Sound and NW Washington, as suggested by the latest forecast of the NOAA/NWS HRRR smoke system.  But smoke will return eventually.


And as I will talk about in a later blog, smoke forecasting has improved dramatically in recent years, giving meteorologists a powerful tool in warning folks of degrading air quality from wildfires.

20 comments:

Apropos said...

Still better than last summer's smoke?

Cliff Mass said...

MUCH, MUCH better. We had smoke starting far earlier last year...this is our first low-level smoke in western WA...cliff

Conner T. said...

Definitely much better. It was already much worse than this for Seafair last year.

Ansel said...

When are we gonna get some RAIN? Real rain, not fake rain (drizzle)?. That's the real cure for this.

Eric Blair said...

This is much better than last year in OR, due mainly to the massive fire in the Columbia River Gorge.

Unknown said...

Any indication of what might be in store at elevation (6,000 and higher) in the north Cascades tomorrow and beyond?

Chris Haenisch said...

Whats the weekend looking like? Smokey I assume...

Unknown said...

To answer Ansel's question - Accuweather predicts rain only in September. Now, Accuweather doesn't live up to its name, esp forecasting so far into the future, but that's the only long-term prediction that I could find. And it is long-term.

TW B said...

Cliff, while I agree that there was smoke much earlier last year I do not recall it getting so bad that it is visible looking across the street from our house (Issaquah 1050" elevation). Is there a way to compare the intensities from last year with today?

Unknown said...

Is there data regarding how bad the smoke is this year compared to years past?

Unknown said...

Hello Cliff. I think you should double check the units. 80mg/m3 would be deadly. 80 µg/m3 is still pretty terrible though.

Unknown said...

The air quality is already worse than it ever was at any point last year, at least in the Bellingham area. I watched the air quality monitors like a hawk due to my asthma and being a farmer. It never got this high. Hopefully it won't stay for as long, though. A

jeff said...

And yet another summer where the perseid meteor shower gets taken off the table

MarkM said...

Is there any logic to the often heard advice that people with respiratory problems should stay indoors? Unless one is filtering incredibly small particles with special equipment it seems to me that there would be no difference in the air indoors.

Island Owl said...

As a person who is frustratingly sensitive to smoke I can say that I do seem to have less problem breathing indoors; still affected but not as bad as when outside. My hunch is that due to less air movement indoors the particulates settle out more than in the constant movement of outside air.

Unknown said...

Any home with an indoor heating/ac system has a filter, so as long as air is being circulated through it some particles will be filtered out. How much that improves the air quality indoors depends on many factors including the filter, the house, whether wibdows are open to let in outside air, etc. If you have a quality filter that has been replaced as needed and keep windows shut while the system runs it should improve indoor air quality.

Adella Wright said...

I'll second that as a person who is inexplicably sensitive to smoke (no diagnosed cardiac or respiratory illnesses - this shit just floors me). Indoors is significantly better. Yes, smoke particulate matter gets in inevitably, but the amount is significantly less. I do also have a HEPA and air conditioners and whatever else, the filters reduce the load on my breathing.

There's also some research to back that up:

"Closed windows, usually associated with use of air conditioning in the developed world, can reduce air exchange rates by about 50%, leading to reduced infiltration of ambient air pollutants to the indoor environment."
- Determinants of Indoor and Personal Exposure to PM(2.5) of Indoor and Outdoor Origin during the RIOPA Study.
Meng QY, Spector D, Colome S, Turpin B


Macintosh et al. [2010] modeled the health benefits of using a whole house in-duct air cleaner. The indoor-outdoor ratio of PM2.5 will decrease from 0.57 with natural ventilation (passive air exchange through windows and other openings), to 0.35 with conventional in-duct filtration, to 0.1 with HEPA (high efficiency particle air) in-duct filtration. Based on modeling of the metropolitan areas of Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus, Ohio, reduction in PM2.5 I/O ratio from 0.57 to 0.1 after adoption of in-duct HEPA filtration would lead to estimated annual decreases of 700 (0.014%) premature deaths, 940 (0.019%) hospital and ER visit, and 130,000 (2.6%) asthma attacks
Atmos Environ (1994). 2009 Nov; 43(36):5750-5758.

Christie Qualey said...

It seems worse than any day last year... much more dense. Driving over the narrows bridge, you can't even see the waters below!

Rebecca Timson said...

Check this out for one possible explanation of health impacts: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/28494199/

Garrett said...

What is the long term outlook for future summers?