September 23, 2015

The Smoke Has Cleared

The media is generally full of gloom and doom, so here is some good news.  The skies of the Northwest are nearly clear of smoke, with most of the fires either out or highly contained.

Consider some of the NASA MODIS imagery.  Yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon's image, shows little evidence of smoke, except for a hint over the far NE section of the State.

Compare that to 2012 on the same date (below).  Smoke land.  Temperatures have been relative normal the past month, with occasional rain moving in.  And very few thunderstorms.  It has made a huge difference.

Even the California fires have declined substantially, with very little smoke evident.

The latest air quality data for throughout the State shows good air quality everywhere (green dots).  This should certainly impress our Chinese visitors.

The view from the SpaceNeedle cam at 10:40 AM shows a finely defined Olympic Mts. in the distance.

To get an idea of the improvement, Here is the particulate levels (PM2.5 small particles for this summer from Seattle (blue), Omak (red), Winthrop (green) and Spokane (orange).  The really bad air quality (PM2.5 over 100) was limited to two weeks in August, after lightning started fires after a dry, warm summer.    The situation is hugely better now.

During the next few days, a weak front will be moving over us, bringing cooling and more rain to the Cascades and western WA.  So expect air quality to remain good for most.

The biggest air quality issue will now switch to woodsmoke from fireplaces and wood stoves, which settles into low spots during cool, autumn mornings.  And, of course, there are those Volkswagen diesels....


Talk on bicycling dry at Cascade Bicycling Club (open to public)


A cyclist's guide to weather information: how to increase your chance of a dry ride
Doors open at 6:30 p.m., presentation begins at 7 p.m. 
Cascade Bicycling Center 
7787 62nd Ave NE, Seattle


  1. Funny that you mention the VW diesels. The illegal tuning that produced the high NOX emissions actually are responsible for lowering their carbon particulate emissions. Higher temperature and a more oxidizing environment in the engine are responsible for that.

    In the trade off between soot and nitrogen oxides, in our climate I'll take the nitrogen oxides every time. Those will rain out before long.

  2. I wonder what Xi thought of our clean air.

  3. Dan,
    Let me fix that for you. You said:
    "In the trade off between soot and nitrogen oxides, in our climate I'll take the nitrogen oxides every time. Those will rain out before long."
    How about:
    In the trade off between soot and nitrogen oxides, in our climate, I'd choose an electric car every time. No soot, no nitrogen oxides, and 80-100% fueled from renewable, non-polluting sources.

    If you have solar panels on your roof and they produce enough to charge your Nissan LEAF (for example), the net carbon effect is that of a car getting 500 mpg. What was that about p2.5 again? Also, they are more fun to drive than a diesel... silent and quick off the line.

  4. The diesel tradeoffs are not that simple. The extra particulates from richer/cooler combustion (which they will presumable do more of after the "fix", given that NoX comes from lean/hot combustion) are trapped effectively in VW and similar engines, and then burned off periodically. The particulates don't actually get into the atmosphere.

    But... richer/cooler combustion and more frequent burn off of the soot will burn more fuel, lowering mileage.

    Very, very hard to get a diesel clean and keep it clean as it ages. Similar to the promise of clean coal.

    If you care about emissions in our hydro-powered PNW, electric is the only true choice, with gas/electric hybrid number two.

    (Choice is not so simple in areas that burn coal for electricity generation).

  5. How many pollutants and what kind are generated in the cradle to grave cycle of electric vehicles?

    When an electric vehicle exists that can perform the same missions as my VW and Jeep diesels, I will consider one. 600-800 mile range respectively, 20 minutes to replenish the on board energy supply and be very comfortable for 4 adults. Did I mention the 7,200 lb towing capacity of the Jeep and excellent resale value that both have?

    Until industry can match with electricity that which diesel fuel provides me today, bring on the DEF!


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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