Monday, September 7, 2020

Incredible Imagery and Smoke Reaches the West Side

I have some amazing imagery to show.  Stunning stuff.

Let me begin with a visible satellite image at 6:41 PM.  Incredible.  Smoke covers much of eastern Washington and and is moving into the Willamette Valley and southwest Washington.    On the verge of reaching Seattle.  But what is absolutely amazing to me are the striations-- wave-like features that indicates atmospheric gravity waves in the smoke layer.


The smoke has reached western Oregon and Washington (south of Seattle).  Air quality at the surface has plummeted, as noted by the observations at air quality sites around the region (see below).  Red is unhealthy for all, orange is bad for sensitive groups.  Yellow is marginal and green is good.  You don't want to know about purple.  The Willamette Valley is a disaster and poor air quality if found over the south Sound and the eastern slopes of the Cascades.


You don't think I can top these graphics?   How about the radar imagery this afternoon, which shows the plumes emitted by eastern Washington wildfires!  Radar is actually a powerful tool for monitoring wildfires.


The amount of area burned today over eastern Washington was unbelievable:  hundreds of thousands of acres, with the fires driven by the dry, powerful winds.    There are power outages all around the Portland area and to prevent new wildfires from trees falling on lines, Portland Gas and Electric has strategically depowered thousands of customers (see below).  Very smart decision.


The winds will be strong (up to 50-60 mph) over Northwest Washington, and with low relative humidities, the potential for fire is still great.

It would be nice for a quiet night in Portland and Seattle.  This is a night for sober protection of our region, properties, public health, and infrastructure.
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16 comments:

  1. We are experiencing that Purple air down here in the valley. Ash falling, limited visibility, and the fires are 50+ miles away. Air conditioning and a filtration system would be nice, as we all rely on opening our houses at night for cool ventilation. This is unprecedented in our time here (only 15+ years)

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  2. Update- they just turned us from Purple up to Brown, Hazardous.

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  3. Thanks for the update Cliff. I think they may have shut down the power in North bend too as it went off about 30mins ago during a lull in winds. Ash is currently falling outside and winds have ramped up once again. Perhaps they have de energized the lines along I90 as I would imagine a single spark could trigger a wildfire as it's a tinderbox out there.

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  4. Cliff
    Please explain the origin of gravity waves amazing images!...just a guess is the related to flow instabilities or can be predicted from eigen values associated with solutions of wave equations?
    Albert from Lopez Island

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  5. I was watching on the Purple Air website as the smoke moved west. Contacted a couple people to close their windows just before it got bad. Here at the house it went from an AQI of 11 to 160 in fifteen minutes. I caught a whiff of it through an open window just before it hit full force and I was able to close all of our windows. Came back to the computer and my sensor was showing a high AQI of 196.

    I'm still amazed that the AirNow site is 1-2 hours behind the actual air quality changes. Seems the cheaper, but faster personal sensors are far more informative in these types of events. The good news is that looks like it might be transient as North Bend and Issaquah dropped off of their highs pretty quickly.

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  6. I was watching on the Purple Air website as the smoke moved west. Contacted a couple people to close their windows just before it got bad. Here at the house it went from an AQI of 11 to 160 in fifteen minutes. I caught a whiff of it through an open window just before it hit full force and I was able to close all of our windows. Came back to the computer and my sensor was showing a high AQI of 196.

    I'm still amazed that the AirNow site is 1-2 hours behind the actual air quality changes. Seems the cheaper, but faster personal sensors are far more informative in these types of events. The good news is that looks like it might be transient as North Bend and Issaquah dropped off of their highs pretty quickly.

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  7. The minimum RH at my location in NW Bellingham on 9/7 was 20% and the minimum dew point was 34F.

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    1. It was 12%RH and a dew point of 14 degrees in Puyallup at 1AM. A little better at my house in SE Seattle 13%RH and a dew point t of 18 degree. That’s about what it was at the same time in Death Valley. I have never seen such before here.

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  8. I was wondering if widespread forest fires in the West were as common say 50 years ago as they are in recent times?

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    1. The Tillamook fires in the last century were quite large:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tillamook_Burn

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  9. I was kind of thrown by the idea of a 'atmospheric gravity wave' because of how similar it sounded to 'gravitational wave' then found these references. https://www.weather.gov/source/zhu/ZHU_Training_Page/Miscellaneous/gravity_wave/gravity_wave.html

    I still don't understand how the waves are so consistent in that beautiful image across much of Central Washington and NE Oregon- I would expect much less organization over such a vast span. Why would it be a defined wave > 200 miles wide?

    Would love any insights anybody (Cliff or the other experts on this blog) can provide!

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  10. I've been living in the Northwest for 20 years now, and after 98 degrees in August, this is the LAST thing I needed. If this becomes the norm, I might as well move cross-country. At least you don't have to keep windows closed during high humidity.

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  11. 9/9 /20- 5:50 am was scanning the GOES-West and there is this lone anomaly cloud just west of lake Tahoe just pops out of nowhere, only cloud on the west coast had a radar signature like a thunder storm...very strange

    - Sector view: Pacific Southwest and jsu https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/GOES/sector.php?sat=G17&sector=psw

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  12. I've lived in Oregon and Washington all my life. This reminds me of stories of the Tillamook fires that my parents told me. They had ash in Longview from the fires.

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