PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – With summer comes wildfire season. That sounds very obvious for those of us out here in Oregon and Washington, but this year it’s impacting way more than the West Coast.
Some years are more fierce than others, with this year seeing a swift start resulting in some massive wildfires around the region. Those large and active fires are creating a smoke screen across nearly all the United States. This may be hard to believe, but one of the clearest spots happens to be just west of those wildfires in Oregon, right here in Portland.
You’ll hear about the wildfire smoke creating an orange hue to the sky in areas of the East Coast. Portland, Maine may even be noticing more smoke than Portland, Oregon right now. It seems like most are now understanding that wildfire season isn’t just a west coast issue (air quality issues and temperature influence).
The smoke forecast is showing the high levels of smoke streaming east and swooping down through the Midwest this evening. If you were to fly out of Oregon to New York, you would spend a lot of time flying through wildfire smoke. The smoke is being transported by the westerly flow of the wind aloft.
Here is an idea of the pattern that is in place and what the wind speed is aloft (18,000ft). That building ridge of high pressure in the belly of the United States seems to be setting the tone for the jet to cruise north and then cycle south downstream right into the Great Lakes region. Of course, that is the ticket to ride for the wildfire smoke as it reaches the upper levels of the atmosphere. The wildfire smoke from the Bootleg Fire, which has been burning since July 6, continues to spew wildfire smoke for travel (now over 300 hours burning, that’s a lot of smoke). There isn’t a large shift in the weather pattern coming, so the wildfire smoke will continue to head up to Canada and then back down to areas of the United States through the rest of the week and into the weekend.
The National Weather Service (NWS) in Portland put out a tweet this afternoon that has a high quality view of the wildfire smoke coming from our large wildfires around the region. Idaho is sitting in the front row, picking up just about all the smoke from each wildfire to the west. We know where that smoke is transporting based off those weather models above. All of the white that is west of those smoke plumes on satellite, that is low clouds from our marine onshore flow that is coming from the west today. Again, we are one of those few places that are avoiding the wildfire smoke in the United States right now.
I took an image of the air quality from the west coast out to the east coast, with all the locations in between too. Green stands for good air quality, which means these locations are not seeing major issues from the wildfires at this time. I should also note, that there may also be other local issue that could be the root cause of some of these yellow, orange and red dots. Outside of some isolated elements, a lot of locations are seeing air quality diminishing because of the wildfire smoke. If you watch the video up top, it discusses the air quality concerns coming out of New York City right now.
When will the problem be fixed? As long as the wildfires are active, there won’t be a long-term fix for this wildfire smoke. It will likely continue to impact a lot of the United States through the summer. If wildfires happen to get controlled, that would doctor this smoke issue.
Short-term, changing up the wind pattern and also adding some rain to the forecast should help out the air quality for many locations. Changing the wind pattern will just stream the smoke to another part of the the world. We honestly just need to get a grip on the wildfires and also add more rain to the forecast. We have no rain in the forecast and some of the wildfires continue to grow as dry and breezy conditions prevail.