Smoke from hundreds of Canada wildfires may be intensifying East Coast sunsets


Smoke enhanced sunset over D.C. Thursday evening (Richard Barnhill via Facebook)

Hundreds of  wildfires in Canada and the Pacific Northwest U.S. have generated a plume of smoke traceable as far east as Washington, D.C.  If you’ve noticed more tints of orange and red in the dawn and evening skies, it could well be from the enhanced scattering effect of increased smoke particles in the atmosphere.

2,720 wildfires have sprung up in Canada this year, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center, and 43 new fires have begun just in the past 24 hours. Over 2.5 million acres of Canada have burned already in 2014. The Alaska Dispatch News reports that the “southern Northwest Territories is experiencing the hottest, driest summer in some 50 years.”


Fires rage in Canada, as captured by NASA’s Terra satellite on July 16, 2014. (NASA)

Wildfire activity has also flourished in the Pacific Northwest U.S. A vicious wildfire  in north central Washington – believed to be set off by lightning and enhanced by recent hot, dry weather – has destroyed up to 100 homes reports the  Spokesman-Review.

The Associated Press offers this video overview of the devastating blaze:

A wind-whipped wildfire in Washington state forces more evacuations Leavenworth as firefighters do what they can to save the tourist town. (Reuters)

 

The jet stream – or high altitude river of strong winds –  has transported this smoke from these fires southeastward across North America.


Jet stream (high altitude winds) Thursday. (WeatherBell.com)

In the U.S., high smoke particle concentrations have compromised air quality in parts of the northern Rockies. Missoula, Mont. is particularly particulate today as smoke looms thick in the air.

On satellite imagery Thursday, the smoke plume could be seen spreading across the Midwest all the way towards Mid-Atlantic.


Thursday evening satellite view (NOAA)

Sure enough, enhanced tints of orange and pink were apparent in last night’s sunset and this morning’s sunrise – likely fingerprints from fires thousands of miles away.


Sunset in Manassas, V.A. on Thursday. (jimknapp via Flickr)

The flow of high altitude winds this evening has changed much since yesterday, so this evening’s sunset could also be influenced although a satellite smoke plume is not as apparent today due to increased cloud cover to our west.

(Capital Weather Gang’s Ian Livingston and Jason Samenow contributed to this post)

Angela Fritz is an atmospheric scientist and The Post's deputy weather editor.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Local

Heat Tracker

19
90-degree days year-to-date
Yearly Average
36
Record Most
67 (1980,2010)
Record Fewest
7 (1886,1905)
Last Year
24

At a Glance

Sun.

-- /84°

Mon.

rain
72° /85°
Drop 80%

Tue.

thunderstorms
73° /90°

Wed.

thunderstorms
76° /92°
Drop 40%

Thu.

thunderstorms
75° /91°
Drop 30%

Fri.

thunderstorms
76° /92°
Drop 30%
National Airport
Dulles
BWI

Right Now

Next Story
Jack Williams · July 18, 2014