August 01, 2017

Smoke Pushes Into Washington State

Today, there was a dramatic reduction in visibility over much of Washington State as smoke from the large numbers of British Columbia wildfires surged southward.   The smoke was clearly evident in satellite imagery, such as the NASA MODIS image taken at roughly 1 PM (the red dots are fire locations).   Both eastern and western WA turned smoky.

The visible satellite imagery from the new GOES 16 satellite, also show the smoke (at 6:30 PM)

There was a rapid degradation of visibility during the morning as the smoke moved in, something apparent from the Seattle Space Needle Panocam.  Here are two images, one at 6:10AM and the other at noon.  Rainier disappeared.  The sky turned whitish and milky.

Air quality declined rapidly, something noted in the EPA AirNow graphic for the Air Quality Index (AQI).   Red and orange are the worst.

If you want to see a nice video of the smoke moving in, here is one from Greg Johnson's cam looking north on the Kitsap Peninsula:

And here is Wednesday's sunrise from the same location....very smoky and a diminished and reddened sun:

Why did the smoke move southward, while it was happy to stay in BC the last few weeks?

 Because the developing heat wave is producing lower pressure (thermal trough) over Oregon, producing a north-south pressure difference (with lower pressure to the south).  This supported northerly flow.   The forecast sea level pressure map for 2 PM shows you what I mean (solid lines are isobars, lines of constant pressure).

Tomorrow (Wed), we will have both smoke and heat (temperature peaking near 90F around Seattle).
Truly, smoke and brimstone.


  1. thanks as always Cliff. Any thoughts on when we can expect the smoke to stop coming towards us? (asthma sucks).

  2. Look at the smoke following the river valleys.
    It comes right out the Fraser outflow onto the San Juans.

  3. What a mess. Heat and smoke - the worst possible weather.

  4. Hi Cliff, will the smoke keep the temperatures down, and if so is that part of the forecast models you use?

  5. Real smokey at the admiralty inlet, since late yesterday afternoon.

    This morning is erie, feels like we are under an infared heat lamp.

    Red sky is so forign, for one that is used to our normal blue within blue sky of the Olympic peninsula.

  6. Intended to ask the question that John Renehan has already wisely done. That is, with the advent of the non-predictable(?) significant haze I notice that several of the forecast sites have snuck down the forecast highs a bit for Seattle over the last couple of days. Can we thereby trade emphysema for heat stroke? (dT/dt = -dP/dt * k * NWS_funding ?)

  7. Cliff, I second John's question: How much is this expected to depress the high temps? And what about the UV index?

    While I love summer, this is another point scored for the East: 1) higher humidity curbs fires; 2) rain curbs fires; 3) deciduous trees (which dominate there) are a whole lot less flammable.

    They do have more bugs though.

  8. Remind your neighbor that smog was commonplace in every large American city until that rabid liberal Nixon revved up the EPA. I'm old enough to remember how awful that was. Whole summers like our few days of haze.

  9. The smoke in the MODIS image this morning is downright apocalyptic looking with all the smoke filling many of the mountain valleys.

    It's quite amazing to see the dense smoke plume pouring out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca along with the wispy streamers extending far to the SE over the Pacific.

  10. Found this helpful animation from CA:

  11. Cliff, you got a mention on USA Today!

  12. Hopefully it doesn't impact the Blue Angels on Friday/Sunday!

  13. I second Jim Evo - any idea of when the smoke will stop coming down and when we might see the olympics from Seattle again?

  14. In Marysville the smoke seems to have stopped the heat today. We were projected to reach mid 90s but we've only seemed to reach the mid 80s.

  15. Those damn kids in Canada stuck a burning stick into our air conditioner!

  16. Foothills of Mt St Helens smokey everywhere. I-5 and Headquarters Rd. At eastern end of Willapa Hills.


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