Friday, August 20, 2021

Rain is coming, right onto many of our large fires.

This UW ensemble precipitation
forecast map shows at least light rain
predicted over much of Washington,
notably skirting the Columbia Basin. 

In most of Washington, any sighs over a cool wet weekend will fill your lungs with clean air.

A breezy weather pattern has started to move across the state. It’s bringing fresh Pacific air and deflecting smoky air from fire complexes in southeastern BC and southern Oregon and northern California away from Washington.

That leaves no smoke worries west of the Cascades, but fires on the range’s east slope and in the Okanogan Highlands can still pack a smoky punch locally.

The Washington Department of Ecology will extend an Air Quality Alert (AQA) for the Methow and Okanogan River Valleys, the Lake Chelan area and Yakima County until 10 a.m. Monday. Particulate matter (PM2.5) levels could reach Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups levels or Unhealthy levels in those areas.

The band of light precipitation will fall mostly in north central parts of Washington, as shown by the ensemble mean of all models. The AQA is being extended despite the rain because fires are expected to continue smoldering for a while. There is not enough rain to extinguish them altogether.

A Super Scooper firefighting plane
flies through evening haze Thursday
over Ecology's Union Gap office.
(Photo: Eiko Urmos-Berry)
The Schneider Creek fire that’s producing scenes like the photo here from Ecology’s Union Gap office last night may miss out on much of the rain.

Cooler temperatures, though, will help fire crews, regardless of rainfall.

The weather package also includes thunderstorms and wind gusts. While those can start or fan wildfires, the overall benefit of cooler air and rain should help fire crews make good progress over the weekend. Sunday should be breezy and drier, with more wet weather forecast to follow early next week.

We’re posting updated local smoke forecasts for Washington’s major fires on this blog’s Local Smoke Outlooks tab. And, our maps show the most current PM 2.5 monitoring information.


  1. I have on question about the forecast we show. As of now, we're showing that air quality would be 'green' for Leavenworth, WA. However, predicts it to be 'red' (150-200):

    This is quite a big of difference. Could you share which one is a more accurate forecast?

    1. Which one is more accurate? Ours, of course ;)
      IQAir has updated their forecast for Leavenworth and is quite similar to ours now. Enjoy the clean air!

  2. Curious why there have no updates for eastern Washington. There is smoke pretty much daily. This site, while informative, seems to cater to the west side. It would be nice to have updated information for the rest of the state.Thank you.

    1. It may look like that because we moved the daily ARA updates to the "Local Smoke Outlooks" tab ( The goal was to make it easier to find the broader forecasts on the home page, but our ARA partners are still at work forecasting smoke for the major fires still burning in the state. You can also slide the toggle on the map to find localized, five-day forecasts for 50 sites around the state.

    2. Check out the new "Local Smoke Outlooks" tab, which has regular updates from Air Resource Advisors for current large fires. There is also a 5-day forecast as part of the map on this page which is updated daily.


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