Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Great Smokies

A smoky atmosphere is currently in place over the Salt Lake Valley with reports of a spectacular sunrise (I missed it!).  The central Wasatch look like the Great Smokies today.  

Satellite imagery from late yesterday afternoon shows extensive smoke across most of the Pacific Northwest including the Columbia Basin and the Snake River Plain.  

Some of this smoke originates from British Columbia, but there are also 21 major wildfires burning in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.  Note the increase in large incidents just between yesterday and today. 
Some of the apparent clouds evident in satellite imagery are dense smoke and pyrocumulus clouds produced by these fires.  In the image below, I've outlined the dense smoke plume generated by the Whiskey Complex Fire in southwest Idaho.  Note how it fans out and eventually merges with the more diffuse smoke over the Snake River Plain.

Many of these fires were sparked by lightning.  Below shows the cloud-to-ground lightning strikes just from 1200 UTC 13 July through 1200 UTC 14 July, which was an active period across Oregon and western Idaho. 


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