A Garden-Variety Heat Wave; Still No Smoke (for Now)

Published at 11:00 on 29 July 2021

We are now in the midst of a pretty garden-variety heat wave for Northwestern Washington. Temperatures in the eighties seem positively anticlimactic compared to readings that pushed the century mark in coastal areas and soared well above it even a short distance inland. It simply underscores how extreme the late June heat wave was. Things will be heading closer to seasonal norms by Sunday, with even the chance of a few showers on that day.

Regarding smoke, we continue to luck out. Fires began erupting shortly after the late June heat wave. At that time, I was pretty sure our luck would not hold for as long as it has. Even many areas east of the Cascades have often escaped the smoke; only the northern tier of such counties has been consistently smoky, as smoke from fires in Okanogan County streams due east.

On the subject of Okanogan County, I had been planning to do some volunteer botanical survey work there this week. The persistently awful air quality readings (generally somewhere between unhealthy and hazardous with little hope for immediate improvement), persuaded me to cancel.

Models indicate we should see some smoke aloft by late Saturday afternoon to early Sunday morning. The source of the smoke will actually be fires well to the south of us in California. This smoke is forecast to stay in the upper atmosphere, so while it may make skies look dingy, air quality near the surface will be unaffected. The clouds and showers forecast for Sunday may well make the dinginess harder to notice.

I will still be surprised if the smoke spares us for the entire rest of the dry season. I am going by pure odds here: chances are slim that low-level flow will remain as persistently in our favor for avoiding smoke as it has been. Sure, it could happen, but it probably won’t. It is still wise to be prepared.

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