August 11, 2015

California Smoke Pushes Over the Northwest

Update Wed. AM:  the growing fire near Mt. Adams has greatly enhanced the amount of local smoke.   Sunlight this morning is weak and yellow.  The sunrise this morning in Seattle said it all:

Northwesteners have mixed feeling about California imports, but this morning a particularly unwelcome Californian arrived:  a massive area of smoke originating over a large fire complex over northern California.

You could see it in the sky and the loss of visibility.  On Tuesday, Rainier was invisible from Seattle and even the closer Cascades were difficult to make out.

To illustrate the change, here are two images taken at noon on Sunday and Tuesday.

On Sunday, the skies were blue and the Cascades were sharply visible against the sky.

On Tuesday, the sky was a muddy gray and the Cascades were hardly visible.   The sun was noticeably weakened by the smoke aloft.

But one good thing about smoke is that it leads to very colorful sunset.   Like Tuesday evening at 8 PM.

The smoke was evident in the visible satellite image at 9 AM (see below, particularly over the ocean, where a distinct edge to the smoke was evident).

and in the MODIS satellite image during the early afternoon.

The WeatherUnderground has some nice images of where the fires were located and where the major smoke plumes are:

The origin of much of the smoke is an amazingly large area over NW California that is burning, as shown by this graphic (Eureka is on the coast):

The Northwest has become vulnerable to smoke from California because the flow is radically different aloft compared to a few weeks ago.  A trough of low pressure is sitting off our coast, with southerly flow over the our region.  Here is a plot of the winds and height at 700 hPa (about 10,000 ft) for Monday night at 5 PM.   You can see what I mean.

And now for some exciting news.   The latest model runs suggest the first real rain for Friday.  I mean real rain.  Here is the forecast for the 24h total ending 5 PM Friday.  WOW.
2-5 inches in some places north of Seattle.  If true, such rain would greatly improve our current situation.  We are close enough now that I am confident we will get something significant...but there are uncertainties with the total for sure.


  1. "model runs suggest the first real rain for Friday"
    What about the "real rain" that you predicted last week?

  2. "model runs suggest the first real rain for Friday"
    What about the "real rain" that you predicted last week?

    1. This summer has been a weird one but I have to believe you can predict two days in advance with much much greater certainty than seven days.

  3. Holy crap LIGHTNING IN SEATTLE!!!!


  4. If the smoke blocks enough solar radiation to drop temps by a few degrees, it is very welcome!

  5. I'm rooting for the rain. Hope it comes with some lightning too, and washes away the smoke so it'll be clear by the weekend.

    California, keep your smoke to yourself!

  6. When I left the house in SW Wa (Pacific County) early this morning headed up 101 I noticed the smoke immediately due to that odd yellowish light effect. Thanks for posting the wind plot map as I'd not put that together with the N Ca fires (then again, 40 some years ago we always had auburn sunsets in late summer/fall due to slash burns).


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