July 05, 2015

Huge Plume of BC Wildfire Smoke Reaches the Northwest

Well, if the miasma of smoke from fireworks wasn't enough, we are now being hit by a huge plume of smoke from large wildfires in British Columbia.

Here is the latest visible satellite image.  You see that light grey stuff that moves southward from the BC Coast and swings into NW Washington?  That is wildfire smoke.  Yuck.  And a very dense area of smoke over Vancouver Island.   You rarely see such profoundly dense smoke.

Much of BC is now very smoky and the regional media have done a number of stories:

Here is the latest MODIS satellite image--you can really see the smoke.  The area over Vancouver Island is VERY thick.  Wow.  I have never seen anything like it in our area. There are also low water clouds along the coast.

Here is a close up view:

The MODIS satellite can tell where is is seeing aerosols (non-cloud particles).   It concurs on the smoky origin of the light gray stuff.

You want to see something amazing.  Here is a picture from Scott Sistek's (KOMO TV!) father's home in Port Angeles today.  The world has turned yellow.  Surreal.

Here some other cams-- several have a sepia-like tonality
Sooke Harbor, BC

Lake Crescent, Olympic Peninsula

Let's look at the latest pollution numbers (small particles) from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency website (Time in PDT).  There were minimal amounts of  particles until later on July 4th.   Then it goes crazy.  HUGE spikes at Tacoma and Marysville, with substantial rises in Seattle, Bremerton, and Lake Forest Park.   I was on a hill  at Magnuson Park in Seattle last night....the air smelled of sulphur.  Interestingly, some locations show a secondary peak this AM....could that be some of smoke from the BC and local wildfires?

The latest Puget Sound Clean Air Agency air quality map shows a number of locations with unhealthy air (reddish dots in the figure).   Green is good.  Yellow is marginal

The view from the Space Needle cam this morning around 6 AM shows the smoke clearly.   Smoke produces vivid, colorful sunrises and sunsets, something that is obvious in this shot.

Finally,  here is a dramatic video from SkunkBayWeather on the northern part of the Kitsap Peninsula, with the camera looking north.  The smoke is so thick it looks like clouds.

Smokey Sunrise - 7/5/2015 from SkunkBayWeather on Vimeo.

So, the Northwest smoke season has begun.   Heat, smoke, arid conditions, and fires.  Folks from California will feel right at home here.


  1. A couple of images from several 'live' Vancouver webcams this morning, plus a 10-second NOAA satellite movie. In the movie you can clearly see the source of the smoke along the upper edge.


  2. Being from Southern California, we knew exactly what we were looking at this morning, just not from where. Thanks. Guess you can't leave everything behind.

  3. Yep. Feels like old times from Northern Cal. We even have a mid sloap fire just north of Lake Whatcom. Let's hope they get good RH recovery tonight and not a thermal belt.

  4. HOW DEPRESSING!!! When will it end???

  5. Not new, but something we're not used to with modern fire control. Generations ago, the coastal pilot warned sailors attempting the Strait of Juan de Fuca to beware of late summer smoke dense enough to make navigation impossible, leading to ships grounding in fire season.

  6. Several wildfires burning here in Whatcom County. Between that and the situation in lower B.C. ~ northeast winds quite strong earlier, too ~ the air quality is extremely poor. Skies look ashen & hazy and an acrid, smoky smell lingering about.

  7. Does this smoke increase or decrease temperature? I.e. reflect sun heat. Or captures the heat?

  8. We have now lost a man, may he rest in peace, a tree faller, as he fought the fire in Sechelt on the coast just north of Vancouver BC, even now at 9:31 pm the sky seems a very weird colour. We are now already ahead of all previous years' totals for number of hectares burned and we are only at the beginning of July.

  9. Why did this stuff all concentrate in one part of the coast this way?

  10. From Lynden WA. About an hour ago, I went outside to see the sun red from the smoky atmosphere. I just went out again and I can't even see the sky at all. It's pure gray and the smoke impairs vision even just looking across the street. It is thick and choking right now. Hopefully, the slight breeze will blow this over before morning.

  11. Do weather forecasts take into consideration the effects of dense smoke such as this on temperature when preparing temperature forecasts?

  12. They did adjust the forecast when I lived in Singapore when we were under assault (as we were annually) from smoke coming from Indonesia. Smoke density could be really intense -- several times what we saw here.

    I live in Sequim now, but this event felt like deja-vu. 'Lots of fires in a neighboring country blowing across a strait.'

    Difference was that those were deliberate illegal burns in Indonesia (clearing jungle and burning fields during the dry season) and here it's apparently all accidental fires.

    But why so many in BC, but only a few in WA? Should be basically the same flora and climate. But at one point on weekend, BC had 97 fires logged, with 50 of them being actively fought. And these were all 10 hectare (25 acre) or larger fires. There were too many smaller ones to list. Overwhelming.

  13. Something I don't understand : What caused the glaciers to melt that covered North America ? It seems like global warming - was it related to CO2 emissions ?

  14. I"m near Olympia. Wondering if the cloudy days lately are due to the smoke from BC or the Olympics fire? I'm not complaining as it's been too hot and dry and scary. But the weather here really has been weird the last few years. I moved here about 13 years ago in part to avoid the worst of the climate change issues but these past two summers here have me worried.

    I see this Saturday and Sunday are sunny and expected to hit 90 again, then cloudy the following 10 plus days and back to 70's. Are these fires causing the cloudiness which is mitigating what should be very hot and dry? Ugh.


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