Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Smoky Summer of 2017

The summer of 2017 will be remembered as one of the smokiest in memory for many residents of the Inland Northwest. So far this summer, our region has had three main smoke events.

Event 1:  August 1st-13th -- Smoke from British Columbia.

In early August, large wildfire complexes in British Columbia were the primary source of smoke for Washington and north Idaho. Several days of north winds pushed wildfire smoke from Canada into the Inland Northwest. By Aug 3-4, much of the Inland Northwest was shrouded in wildfire smoke. This smoke would linger through the weekend of Aug 12-13 when a cold front finally pushed the smoke out of our region.

August 1st:  This "True Color" visible satellite image is from the morning of August 1st. Look at thick smoke in southern B.C. pour into north central Washington through the Okanogan Valley.

August 4th:  By the 4th, smoke covered most of the state of Washington as well as large portions of Idaho, Oregon, and Montana.
Event 2:  August 22nd - 30th -- Smoke from Oregon.

In late August, the Inland Northwest received smoke from a different source region. This time large fires in southwest and west central Oregon produced a thick layer of mid and high level smoke that periodically moved across Washington and north Idaho. During this nine-day event, smoke largely remained aloft, but there were periods when places like Lewiston, Pullman, and Spokane experienced visibility reductions to 5 miles or less.

Aug 22nd: This late afternoon visible satellite image shows thick smoke over southwest and west central portions of Oregon. Between August 23rd and 30th, mid and high level smoke from Oregon would produce periods of hazy and smoky conditions over much of the Inland Northwest.

Aug 30th: For most of eastern Washington, North Idaho, and central Oregon, the worst day of smoke in late August occurred on the 30th prior to the arrival of a cold front. In Spokane, the visibility dropped to 5 miles shortly after sunrise on the 30th.

Event 3: Sep 4th - 8th  -  Smoke from Montana + Washington Cascades + Oregon

Our ongoing smoke event has been the worst so far this summer. The arrival of a cold front on Labor Day (Sep 4th) imported thick ground level smoke from Montana into our region. In addition to the thick low level Montana smoke, fires in the Washington Cascades and Oregon added a good deal of mid and high level smoke over the Pacific northwest.

With widespread visibility of 2 miles or less in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho...our ongoing smoke event is the worst so far. It will likely be late Thursday or Friday before "cleaner" west winds push smoke out of the Pacific Northwest.

Sep 6: Milky white smoke covers all of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and much of western Montana in this "True Color" visible satellite image from the afternoon of September 6th.

Tomorrow evening, we will compare our ongoing smoke event (Sep 4th - 8th) to the Spokane "Smoke Storm of August 2015" and Wenatchee's "September of Smoke in 2012".

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