Smoke from California wildfires could impact Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Needless to say, we were blessed with a slow start to the wildfire season in Washington and Oregon; however, this has not been the case for the states surrounding the Pacific Northwest.

Wildfires are on the rise in California and Utah, with other major fires scattered across the United States. We know that with summer in PNW we get some heat, but we also tend to find a bit of a foggy window due to wildfire smoke. We could have our first smoke pall moving into Oregon by Tuesday.

Right now, there’s a wildfire in Yosemite National Park that’s producing enough smoke to spread across the West Coast. A live camera image from the Yosemite Conservancy shows smoke from a wildfire causing a thick cloud in the view of the iconic “Half Dome” granite slab. This wildfire is called the Washburn Fire and it currently covers over 2,000 acres and is 25% contained.

We have taken the weather data which will show the high level smoke forecast for the next 24 hours. At this time, this wildfire appears to be quite far away and the wind patterns should only impact the upper levels of the atmosphere.

However, that doesn’t mean it won’t create haze for us here in the Willamette Valley. If you maneuver the slideshow below, you will notice the increase in smoke by Monday evening for southern Oregon. By Tuesday, this high level smoke is also expected to flake over central and eastern Oregon. At this time, there may be smoke advisories in the central or southern Willamette Valley. We do not anticipate any impact on surface air quality. We can completely avoid the smoke in the valley.

Why now? For one thing, the growth of wildfires in the south has been steady. It is large enough to have more impact than the nearby sky.

The next reason? Well, the wind is going to be more southerly on Tuesday. It’s the wind pattern high above our heads where planes fly. Closer to the surface, the wind will actually blow from east to west (~4,500′). On the surface, the wind will blow from the north. This means that we will have a clean slate close to the ground. You will notice on the image titled “temperatures aloft”, that we will have warm air around, but also a northeast wind represented by these arrows. Wind patterns are something we refer to frequently when discussing air mass and temperatures. In this case, we focus on the wind for its impact on the transport of smoke!

FROM SMOKE TO HEAT

It’s starting to look more and more like summer around Portland. We are entering our second dry spell of the summer season. We have no rain in the forecast for the next 7-10 days. We’re also starting to feel a more consistent heat here. We are tackling temperatures that will be nearly 10 to 15 degrees outside our average for the next two days (Monday and Tuesday). The temperature deviation graph below predicts temperatures well above normal for a few days. Only Newport is expected to cool Tuesday and Wednesday.

What does +17 actually look like? Well, check out the 7-day forecast below. Temperatures in the mid-90s will be 10 to 20 degrees above normal. We should generally be in the lower 80s this time of year. We’ll get there, we’ll have a break from the heat on Wednesday.

This wind shift will cool us down, it will also prevent most wildfire smoke, even at high levels, from staying south and east of Portland.

Dale D. Schrum