Wildfire smoke traverses coast to coast


Smoke will make it's way through New Mexico and onto New England by Tuesday evening

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Weather is the national story this week, but not only for the hurricanes riding into the Gulf. Wildfires are ablaze across California, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and several other states, and the smoke from these fires is going to be noticeable from coast to coast.

Almost one million acres of land have burned or are burning in California as of August 24. Two of the largest fires in California started about one week ago, on August 17 and August 18. The LNU Lightning Complex Fire has burnt 351,817 acres in Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties and is only 25% contained as of August 25. Meanwhile, the SCU Lightning Complex Fire is only 15% contained, burning 360,055 acres throughout Santa Clara County, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, San Joaquin County, and Stanislaus County.

Immense amounts of smoke started drifting into the Pacific Northwest, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming last week. The jet stream has now broadened and it’s carrying that smoke all the way to the Midwest. The smoke will make it to New England by Tuesday evening. Below is a projected map of Near-Surface Smoke by 5 PM E.D.T, August 25.

NOAA Earth System Research Labratory

The smoke is also curling around a high-pressure system which is over the southwest U.S. Besides the California wildfires, there are numerous other fires burning across the west that are also attributing to the smokey atmosphere.

The image below shows all of the wildfires burning in the western U.S. and the resulting smoke plume shaded in grey. The air quality is moderate for most of the west, including Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. As the smoke plume drifts east, air quality will lower for the Plains and Midwest. Smokey air and increased ozone have negative effects for anyone with asthma, breathing problems and COVID-19.

Severe and extreme drought conditions can be blamed for the intense wildfire season. Short term and long term drought has taken over most western states. No major seasonal changes are expected. A La Nina watch is in effect which may leave the west on the drier side this winter.

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