SAN FRANCISCO (NEXSTAR) — In addition to monitoring storms, lightning, heat advisories and other weather events, meteorologists have a new role on the West Coast: smoke forecaster.
On Sunday night, the San Francisco Bay Area office of the National Weather Service tweeted a model of projected smoke movement over the next several hours.
“This is considered experimental,” meteorologists cautioned. They aren’t the only office now attempting to inform residents about movements of the potentially harmful air they are breathing.
Millions across California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Idaho have been hit with unhealthy and at time hazardous air conditions since some of the nation’s largest wildfires on record sparked in mid-August. Increasingly, meteorologists are attempting to provide information on when things will actually improve. Unfortunately, that may not be anytime soon.
A modeling tool from NASA’s Global Modeling Assimilation Office attempts to give us some sense of the potential movement of particulate matter from the smoke in our atmosphere in the coming days. On Sunday, the NWS Boise office tweeted a new model from the GMAO showing smoke drifting across some 40 U.S. states between September 13th and September 18th.
As you can see in the animation below, the smoke particles are projected to stretch across every state in the Northeast before drifting into the deep South late in the week.
While the model shows relatively high levels of burned biomass reaching most states, residents on the ground may not notice it at all.
“For some of these, they won’t see it at the surface,” says Meteorologist Jessica Chiari of the NWS Boise office. “It’s at least going to be drifting aloft though.”
Chiari says much of the Pacific Northwest will remain socked in for the next few days, but a potentially strong weather system is on the radar for late this week. While that event may not entirely clear out the skies, it may push out some smoke and potentially drop rain on some of the worst wildfires in Oregon. The model also shows some apparent clearing in California, the state hit hardest by the mid-August fires.
As of Monday, Air Quality Index readings in parts of Oregon and Washington State were considered hazardous, nearly maxing out the 500 point scale for monitoring poor air quality.