Wildfire smoke stream keeps sky hazy, air quality teetering

Wildfire smoke stream keeps sky hazy, air quality teetering

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Wildfire smoke is moving in and out, and we are stuck in the middle for the next day or two. You’ll notice a similar haze from Monday evening in the sky on Tuesday. It won’t limit the temperatures all that much, as the smoke isn’t as thick as other locations in the near region. It will offer more color to the morning sunrise and the evening sunset as long as it is around.

The smoke that will be bothering us in the Willamette Valley is mostly a high-level smoke, not impacting the surface all that much. That means the air quality isn’t expected to drop significantly, but it may teeter at times Tuesday. I would expect a few locations to fall to a yellow, or moderate level, in the valley.

Closer to the source of small fires in the Cascades, there may be a few spots that hit the orange or unhealthy for sensitive groups category. The air quality as we approach mid-day is mainly green west of the Cascades, and a mixture of yellow, orange, and red to the east. You can see from the legend in the graphic below, what each color represents.

The Dalles, Oregon 8.3.21

This is what the view looks like from our Columbia Gorge Community College camera coming across the river looking towards Oregon. The scene there is at a level that is much hazier than the valley, with lower air quality levels as of mid-day. We haven’t reached this tier just yet around Portland, and we aren’t expecting to at this point of time.

It is smoky enough to spark an air quality alert for most counties hugging the I-84 corridor of the Columbia River until Wednesday evening. Wasco County to Umatilla County, with all the locations in between for the exception of what looks to be Klickitat County. We should also note the air quality alert to the south for Douglas County.

There are no air quality alerts in place for central Oregon communities south of Wasco county and the counties in the Willamette Valley and southwest Washington locations.

WILDFIRE SMOKE FORECAST

This is what a weather model looks like for the stream of wildfire smoke that is moving to the north Tuesday. The southerly flow will usher that right through the upper sky of the Willamette Valley and then it will wrap east, stifling the sky around Washington.

This is going to keep a hazy view for locations up towards Seattle as well, but it won’t be as thick as those locations east of the Washington Cascades, that are dealing with local fire smoke there. That is the part of the Pacific Northwest (PNW) that is working through lower air quality readings.

We often refer to our atmospheric rivers as a ribbon of moisture or a hose of moisture when we refer to them from the viewpoint of a weather model or satellite imagery. There is no direct name for the wildfire smoke, but it sure looks like a stream of smoke or funnel of smoke moving through on the high-level smoke forecast below. We will refer to it as a stream of smoke, which is going to move east on Wednesday, eventually clearing out later in the week due to a short-term shift in upper-level winds.

DROUGHT

That shift is going to also bring in a chance for rain later in the week. Rain will also help with the wildfire smoke and it may potentially help the air quality for some locations, too. We haven’t had much of it this summer, if any. Check out Chief Meteorologist’s Natasha Stenbock retweet about Death Valley picking up more rain in July than we had in Portland.

It’s not out of the normal for the monsoon season to bring rain to the Death Valley region, but it is still hard to fathom how it picked up nearly an inch and a half more rain than Portland. There are a lot of other locations, especially in the PNW, that are also in the same boat. We just need more rain.

We will have an update to the drought monitor on Thursday, but until then, this is where we are currently sitting based off of last week. The exceptional drought continues to grow for central Oregon. We have an extreme drought creeping up through the Willamette Valley, especially for the foothills, which are vulnerable to lightning strikes during the summer.

It’s alarming when some of the wettest spots in the state (Astoria), are currently in a moderate drought. The drought has become worse through each update, I would expect the growth of one of the categories come Thursday. The water year is to finish on September 30, which means we have the rest of August and September to pick up more rain.

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