August 05, 2018

Warmer Weather and More Smoke Ahead

Seattle PanoCam images at 6:10 and 6:30 AM Monday morning looking northwest from the Space Needle --the eastward-moving smoke is obvious

Our cool respite with little wildfire smoke is over.

High pressure is building over the inland western U.S., resulting in increasing offshore and southerly flow that will bring more smoke into western Washington.

Currently, there are a number of small and moderate-size fires burning over the Northwest (see map), plus plenty in California (see image).

High pressure starts building along the West Coast (see upper level map for Tuesday morning).

At the surface, high pressure will be building inland, resulting in easterly flow and the development of a thermal trough (low pressure) extending and amplifying from CA to WA (see surface map at 2 AM Wed).

These changes will produce increasing flow from the south and east that will move smoke our way.  The smoke map from the NOAA HRRR smoke system for 5 PM (below) shows eastern WA smoke pushing into the eastern side of the lowlands....which was very obvious if you looked eastward towards the Cascades today.

The situation worsens by 5 PM Monday (see below) as massive amounts of California and SW Oregon smoke pushes northward.  Skies will get hazy and the sun weakened.

Finally, by 11 AM on Tuesday, relatively dense smoke from CA and southern Oregon will extend over our region.   Our air quality at the surface will depend critically on how much of this smoke mixes down to the surface.

There was a large amount of lightning yesterday associated with thunderstorms over the Cascades (see below)..... I am worried that some of these strikes might have started new fires.


  1. The majority of people still consider summer to be the best time of year across the country. Nothing says "SUMMER FUN!" like deadly heat, fires and dirty air. Couple that with all the expectations of travel, keeping the kids entertained, home projects, keeping plants from withering, higher energy costs, higher demands at work etc.

    Best time of year. Summer is great. Oh yes. Yah, right!

    Labor Day please don't be late!

  2. Lightning sparked fires are a natural thing, I don't get too worked up about them!

  3. I'm with you BAMCIS. I hate summer. Kids and seemingly more days miserably hot. I remember week after week of 70 to 80 growing up. But nowadays it feels like it's either marine layer or blow torch with another heat wave in sight every week. Now we're adding smoke every year. Aren't we overdue for a summer skip we have periodically? The last real one I can think of was back in 2008. I pine for September and a quick start to Fall.

  4. Harper's Magazine publishes very good investigative reporting. In the August (2018) issue, you can find two excellent articles on wildfires, their management, mismanagement and scientific views. The titles are Combustion Engines and There Will Always be Fires. Very worthwhile.

  5. The lightning definitely caused new fires. I was out hiking the Summit Prairie trail in the Gifford Pinchot NF yesterday. We got out early and in the morning were walking on a newly wetted trail with patches of hailstones. We did an out-and-back and on the way back we were passed by a mountain biker who had come across a smoldering log that we hadn't noticed on the way out. He must have passed the location on the trail where the fire is an hour and half after we did, but we didn't notice anything. Either we are completely oblivious, or in the space of that hour it went from only lightly smoldering to more strongly burning. It took us another two hours to get cell reception to call it in. The Forest Service said they'd send in a crew to check it out this morning. Hopefully they'll be able to get to it early enough to monitor it or suppress it if need be.

    But not every lighting caused fire is going to be near a trail, and apparently not everybody will call them in if they come across one (the sheriff and the forest service hadn't heard from the mountain biker who told us about it).

  6. This has been a wonderful summer in Seattle... the garden is beautiful and bountiful. The sky isn't the unbelievable blue it is in the spring but it is close enough. It's 83 outside right now, the birds are attacking the berries (grrr), the dog is asleep in the shade. Quiet and still in the mountains... it's summer in the NW. I love it. Always have, always will.

  7. Since I moved to Portland six years ago, I have yet to experience anything that could be called a "mild summer." July was ridiculous with a record number of 90+ days, which was similar to the past five years, if memory serves. Now here we go again with another heat wave, the third one already this summer. Yuck.

  8. I was comparing my record of last year's dry summer days with this year's. Last year we had LOT of fires - more than this year (hope that continues). Anyway, last year (2017) we had 28 days without precipitation beginning 6/22 to 7/19, then a few rainy days, and then another stretch of 19 dry days from 7/24 to 8/11. At that point weather returned to the 'more rainy days than not' pace. This year, there only a few dry spells longer than 7 days until this current one: 27 days since measurable precipitation beginning 7/12 through today.

    I'm observing near Mt. Baker, and the mountain zone weather/climate pattern is different from what most folks experience in the lowland 'banana belt'. Bottom line, clearly last year's summer was generally drier, if days without rain matter (in respect to fires, streamflow, etc) By the way, daytime temperatures seem a bit higher, but summer overnight lows have been very consistent for the two years, and humidity remains rather moderate (not super-dry). Knock on wood, forest fire risk has not been extreme.

  9. Yes, we got big, stormy, sunny rain drops - plus lots of thunder - north of Cle Elum on the Teanaway R. on Saturday evening. Didn't see any fires but we sure figured out where they got big rains. The West Fork and Middle Fork of the Teanaway were chocolate muddy and had risen quite a bit when we went down for our traditional camping weekend dip. Yech. Fortunately, the North Fork didn't seem to be affected.

  10. So this is Tuesday, and I see blue sky. What's up with the model?


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