Friday, July 21, 2023

High Altitude Smoke and Eastside Fire Weather

Close observers of the Fire and Smoke Map ( over the last few days may have noticed the persistent smoke plume overlaying our region, as seen from the Thursday 7/20 afternoon image below.

Very close observers may have wondered: “If the skies of Washington State have been dimmed by smoke from wildfires in Oregon and Canada for the last few days, how is it that our Air Quality index has mostly remained GOOD?”

The answer is that the smoke plume from these out of region fires has remained aloft at or above 10k feet; when smoke is present at that altitude but not at ground level, it can register on satellite imagery, but not on air quality monitors and sensors on the ground.

Within the state, fires on Joint Base Lewis-McChord have contributed near surface smoke to the south Puget Sound beginning on Wednesday 7/19. At least one these fires is burning in the Artillery Impact Area and is therefore not subject to full suppression tactics. Expect this fire to continue to produce mild-moderate smoke impacts locally until it burns itself out.

NOAA HRRR Near Surface Smoke: 7/20 @ 3:15pm

Other smaller fires did occur on both sides of the Cascades this week, but were quickly suppressed, and did not have lasting impacts on local air quality.

Moving into the weekend, the National Weather Service has identified elevated fire risk for the eastside of the state from Friday through Monday. By observing fire bans, fully extinguishing recreational fires where they are allowed, and traveling responsibly you are making a positive contribution to Washington State’s public health and safety.

Enjoy the weekend!

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