August 13, 2019

Smoke: what a difference a year makes.

We are now in primo smoke season for the Pacific Northwest and our skies are nearly smoke free.   To illustrate the point, here is today's high resolution MODIS visible imagery (top) and the same image one year ago (bottom).

What a difference. 

The air quality map for the region, shows green colors at nearly every location (green means good air quality).  Last year the map was full of yellows and reds.

Remember the smoke from Alaska a week ago?   None of that anymore, as shown by the small particle concentration at Seattle (see below)
This lack of fires is particularly impressive considering how much lightning we had over the weekend--I mean many thousands of strikes, mainly east of the Cascade crest. 

For example, below are the strikes for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Thank a relatively moist summer, generally mild temperatures, and the active suppression activities of WA DRN, OR ODF, US Forest Service, and others.   And remember the suppressing fires has issues--fire is a natural part of the east-side landscape.

No heat waves in our immediate future, so the fire/smoke situation should stay in check.


  1. Cliff, where are the lightning "hot spots" for Western Washington? (I know there isn't much, but there must be variation.) Seems like it should be the convergence zone between Seattle and Everett, but I have lived here for a number of years and also in Gig Harbor, and have not see more here- perhaps even less. I think there might be a lightning hot spot in the vicinity of Port Townsend/Port Ludlow/Skunk Bay, (the east side of the Olympic mountains and perhaps analogous to the eastern Cascade foothills) as I have twice experienced thunder and lightning in that area while on my boat. But I don't have enough data to be sure.

  2. After 2 years of August asthma, we finally shelled out and bought A/C. Now we're smoke free because of it. You're welcome.

  3. Lightning Strike map two looks like a horse running through water. Just sayin.

  4. Get rid of that Ad Blocker warning! We block ads for a reason!

  5. Yes, suppressing fires has consequences down the road in overstocked fuels and consequently bigger and hotter fires as we've seen the past several years. However the DNR and FS are not suppressing all fires, as you seem to suggest above. I live in a fire prone area and I have seen aggressive and well coordinate suppression efforts when the fire is near and directly threatens populated areas - like recent fires a few miles from Winthrop and within the town of Twisp. But fires are allowed to burn in other areas until a natural, season ending event ( snow) puts them out - like the current Devore fire southwest of Stehekin. Or fires are contained within a certain "safe" area and allowed to burn as long as containment lines are secure - like the North Mill Creek fire. So it's not an either/or situation - suppression or let it burn. Practices change - or should change - as science, knowledge and experience inform decision making and I see that both DNR and FS are well aware of the role fire has to play in certain landscapes and have learned from mistakes of the past.

  6. @Unknown ... as we Detroit Lions fans say - "Wait 'till next year!"

  7. Good news, now if can just get more goats to eat the cheatgrass...

  8. Sunshine, no smoke -- life is good!


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

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