WEATHER GEEK: Washington wildfires smoking up the Puget Sound Air

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by Chris Scragg
Puget Sound Weather Geek

As fire season has raged on in Eastern Washington this summer, it’s become commonplace for hazy smoke to drift high above us in the west portion of the state…but not like this.

Thick smoke blanketed the Puget Sound lowlands in Western Washington on Saturday and Sunday, causing air quality concerns and prompting the National Weather Service to issue a Special Weather Statement.

AirNow maps showed the air quality quickly degrading throughout the day on Sunday. The red areas represent air that is unhealthy for all groups.

According to the NWS, light easterly winds between 5,000 and 10,000ft were enough to transport the plentiful smoke into the western portion of the state. The smoke then sunk down into the valleys and was locked in by a cap of warm air called an inversion over cooler air near the surface.

After some brief research, I was only able to find one similar incident in 2003 where wildfire smoke polluted the air in the Puget Sound region.

Westerly onshore flow from the Pacific Ocean will bring an end to the smoke for us west of the Cascades. Unfortunately it also represents worsening fire weather in the days to come.

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