WeatherWeather Blog


Wildfire Smoke Overhead

The origins of the hazy sky over the area
Posted at 5:44 PM, Sep 13, 2022

If you stepped outside today, it is sunny, with hardly a cloud in the sky. However, if you look close enough the sky is not its usual blue, and the area around the sun is unusually bright. Why does the sky have a hazy look to it? The answer lies in wildfire smoke. But where is it coming from? Does it affect the air quality? When will it go away?

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Satellite Imagery over the US, notice the smoky look over Nebraska and surrounding states?

A glance at the visible satellite imagery across the United States this evening shows traditional cloud cover is well to our west and our east, leaving a large swath of the central US clear. However, if you look closer you can see what looks like dusty of wispy streaks visible form Montana through the Dakotas into Nebraska, continuing on to Missouri and Arkansas. That is wildfire smoke, which hangs in the upper levels of the atmosphere.

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A cluster of wildfires over the Pacific Northwest is responsible for pulling the smoke into the area. (NOTE: The fire icons over the Midwest are not wildfires, but any grass fire is included)

The origins of the smoke is from the wildfires which have been ravaging through much of the west. Wildfires have been raging from California through Washington, Idaho, and Montana. As the smoke rises, it gets caught in the flow of the jet stream well overhead. The jet stream then blows it eastward across the Canadian Prairies, then takes it southeastward into the northern US and eventually Nebraska.

Luckily, the smoke has been staying at the upper reaches of the atmosphere and has not been blown towards the surface. If that smoke gets closer, it can begin to affect air quality. This has not happened over our area, but places closer to the wildfires have been dealing with some air quality issues.

Region Air Quality.png

The big thing you will notice will be our sunrises and sunsets will be more vibrant than usual, this is due to the suns light reflecting and bouncing off smoke particles. A cold front late this week will bring an increase in cloud cover and rain, which will wash away some of the smoke. Unfortunately, the only way to have the smoke truly let up is if the wildfires out west are tamed. Rain chances also increase over the west, which will likely help.