wildfire smoke | KNKX

wildfire smoke

The Washington State Capitol illuminated at night.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press file

COVID-19 numbers may be flattening in Washington – but wildfires are sweeping across the region and the official death toll from the state's record heat wave has risen. Olympia correspondent Austin Jenkins joined Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick to talk about those issues and many more.

Smoke, extreme heat pose harsh test for West Coast vineyards

Jul 12, 2021
Alejandra Morales Buscio of Salem, Ore., reaches up to pull the leaf canopy over pinot noir grapes to shade the fruit from the sun on July 8, 2021, at Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner, Ore.
Andrew Selsky / The Associated Press

The heat wave that recently hit the Pacific Northwest subjected the region’s vineyards to record-breaking temperatures nine months after the fields that produce world-class wine were blanketed by wildfire smoke.

A great horned owl seen against a smoky backdrop in in Washington County, OR on August 19, 2019.
J. Maughn / Flickr / Creative Commons

We know that people suffer when smoke from wildfires fills the air. It’s a nuisance and a health hazard. But how does it affect wildlife?

Researchers at the University of Washington are tackling that question.

Under a smoke-filled sky, volunteer Shawn Daley directs traffic into the parking lot an evacuation center at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, which was crowded with hundreds of cars, pickup trucks, and campers of evacuees, in Salem on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020.
Andrew Selsky / The Associated Press (file)

The state department of Labor and Industries has begun a rule-making process to protect outdoor workers from wildfire smoke. It will make Washington the second state after California to do so.

Smoke from wildfires in Oregon and California creates hazy skies as the sun is seen above the Washington state Capitol, Saturday afternoon, Sept. 12, 2020, in Olympia, Wash. Numerous air quality warnings were in place for most of the West for several days
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Forecasters here are monitoring smoke from California that has the potential to reach Western Washington this week. Easterly winds have revved up and the smoke is accumulating offshore. Some of it is expected to flow north, but how much, exactly when and how it impacts air quality once it arrives are all open questions at this point.

Smoke from wildfires in Oregon and California creates hazy skies as the sun is seen above the Washington state Capitol, Saturday afternoon, Sept. 12, 2020, in Olympia, Wash.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press


Unhealthy and hazardous air will stay in Western Washington for much of this week. Air quality scientists say they are looking for wind — not rain — to clear things out.

A cloudy Seattle skyline as seen on June 5.
Time Durkan Photography

Low clouds have lingered over much of the Puget Sound region in recent days, the latest evidence that this summer stands in stark contrast to the hot, smoky, straw-hat weather of the past two years.

KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says Friday temperatures will only get into the lower 70s. And he says the weekend will be dominated by more of those lower temps, thanks to the presence of an upper level trough.

news that informs graphic
Adrian Florez / KNKX

Wildfire smoke is causing hazy skies in the region. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency says smoke from wildfires started moving into the Puget Sound area late Friday. Phil Swartzenbruder, an air quality scientist with the agency, says it’s difficult to determine which fires are sending the smoke here.

Lenticular clouds cap Mount Rainier at dusk as a jet passes by Dec. 31, 2018, as seen from Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

August was off to a warm and sunny start Thursday, with blue skies and nearly perfect summer weather.

But people in the Puget Sound region woke up to as much as a half an inch of rain that fell overnight; on the coast, the precipitation totaled as much as an inch and a half. Temperatures dropped quite a bit, too.

KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass said a strong front came through and brought along an intense band of showers.

rain pike place market
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

The wet season has returned to Western Washington, with showers and all out rain alternating through early next week, a continuation of the pattern we’ve been seeing for a while.

“But none of that’s going to be that heavy. And the reason is, most of the weather is going into California,” said KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass, who teaches atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington.

Seattle sunset
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Clear blue skies and sunshine got the weekend off to a beautiful start in Western Washington. Both are expected to stick around all day Friday, before shifting to showers Saturday morning.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

A cloudy start to Friday with slightly cooler temperatures signaled a return to more normal conditions in the Puget Sound region after a week in which air quality reached its worst levels ever for a 24-hour period, measured by the particulate matter in the air.

More than a million acres of Montana forests and rangeland have burned this year, so far, causing unhealthy air across the state since mid-July.

In August the Missoula County health department took the unprecedented step of advising the entire town of Seeley Lake to evacuate due to smoke; air there has been classified as "hazardous" levels for 35 days in August 1.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

The eerie tinge to the air that deposited showers of ash in many areas of the Puget Sound region Tuesday seems to be subsiding. KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says the worst of the smoky skies is over, pushed out by the approach of an upper level trough and cooler air moving in from the ocean.

Inciweb via AP

Wildfire smoke has darkened skies and even scattered ashes in neighborhoods throughout the Puget Sound region. The orange-tinged light has an eerie glow that has many people wondering what on earth is going on? How bad is this year’s fire season and how is it different than previous years?

The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for western Washington and Oregon Wednesday and said the highs in Seattle on Thursday could hit 95 (35 Celsius) while Portland could reach 105 (40.5 Celsius).
Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Seattle’s above-normal temperatures have been tempered somewhat by a grimy layer of smoke from British Columbia’s wildfires that moved in Tuesday. The influx has made air quality in and around the Emerald City worse than Beijing’s.

Even as the air cools a bit over the weekend, the temperatures will stay far above normal, with the haze dissipating only somewhat and quite slowly, says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass, a professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington.