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Record-Breaking Smoke Hits Area

We all remember how smoky it was in 2017. The Pacific Northwest saw multiple periods of thick smoke through August 2017, and on September 5, ash fell over the city for first time since a trace fell when Mt. St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d see a smoke season in Seattle that would rival 2017, but 2018 has not only rivaled but surpassed last summer.

Interestingly, fire activity over the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia was remarkably quiet through July, and while we saw a little smoke from fires over Southern Oregon and California to finish off the month, the smoke was confined to the upper atmosphere and had little impact on air quality at the surface. However, we saw a dramatic pattern shift to begin in August, with a large ridge of high pressure developing over our region while a deep trough of low pressure sat offshore. This pumped warm, moist and unstable air into the Northwest, resulting in quite a bit of thunderstorm activity over British Columbia.

Photo courtesy Sara Robertson