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Clearer And Cooler In Puget Sound Region After Surge Of Marine Air, But Smoke's Not Over Yet

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
The sun is seen through smoky air as it sets, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, behind the Narrows Bridge in Tacoma, Wash. Poor air quality was common across parts of the Pacific Northwest all week as winds pushed smoke from surrounding wildfires into the region.

People in the Pacific Northwest are breathing easier, now that a big push of cool marine air has surged in from the coast, clearing local skies of smoke and ash from forest fires throughout the western states and Canada.

After another week with some of the worst air quality ever experienced here, clouds and cooler temperatures come as a huge relief. But KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says it’s not completely over yet.

“I think we’re done with the really big smoke here in the Puget Sound, but I suspect we’ll see some light smoke, on and off, from both local and distant fires,” said Mass, who is a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.

The smoke has been so intense that local people are even writing songs about it. One listener sent us a video of a ballad he composed describing it last year, entitled “The Canadian Smoke Disaster of ’17.”


Much Cooler Weather Ahead

Mass says Friday’s start  -- with cool temps, low level clouds and some sprinkles here and there –  is what folks should expect all weekend long.

“Temperatures will only get up into the upper 60s, maybe lower 70s in a few places,” Mass said. “That’s going to be the story of the weekend. We’re going to have generally a lot of low clouds.”

And those clouds come with light precipitation. Mass says he expects showers in the mountains, starting lighter on Saturday, but increasing Sunday.

“From basically Mount Rainer north, there could be some light rain – as an upper level trough comes through, on Sunday.”

Mass says it’s a much cooler weekend than people here have seen in quite a while.

“Temperatures are only getting up into the 60s, really a knock down,” he said.

Warmer Start Next Week

Next week, Mass expects an improving picture Monday and Tuesday, as an upper level ridge moves in.

“The temperatures will go back into the 70s. But I don’t see any more 80s and 90s, as far as I can view in the models,” Mass said, adding that this shift may mark the end of true summer for 2018.

“I think we’re past the warmest temperatures of the year – I can’t be sure about it, but at least for the next few weeks,” he said.

To hear the full conversation, including Cliff’s description of what caused the poor air quality and how accurate forecasting of local smoke has become possible, you can click on the 'play' icon at the top of this post.

Weather with Cliff Mass airs at 9:02 a.m. Friday, right after BirdNote, and twice on Friday afternoons during All Things Considered. The feature is hosted by KNKX environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp. Cliff Mass is a University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences, a renowned Seattle weather prognosticator, anda popular weather blogger. You can also subscribe to podcasts of Weather with Cliff Mass shows, viaiTunes or Google Play

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to