The photo above was distributed on Twitter Friday morning July 10 by the National Weather Service out of Glasgow, Montana, along with this explanation:
A view of two circulations in the upper level flow mixing with smoke from Canadian wildfires.
The smoke is so that that it is casting a shadow on the ground. Pretty fascinating, I must say.
To get you oriented, the US/Canadian border goes across the middle of the photo, and below that are the states of Idaho, Montana and North Dakota.
The next image is from the Aqua/MODIS satellite, taken on Thursday, July 9. I added the text and the arrows. The red dots represent the location of wildfires. Click on the photo to see a larger version.
The wildfires in Canada continue to pump smoke into the north-central United States and the midwest, deteriorating the air we breathe. Some air quality monitoring stations in South Dakota and Minnesota are reporting conditions that are “Unhealthy” [for everyone] and “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups”. North Dakota only has one station in the entire state that reports to AirNow, and that is in the extreme western part. If there were any in the central or eastern area, they would show some pretty nasty air.
The smoke is reflecting some sunlight, causing temperatures to drop below what they would be if the air was less polluted.
In the image below there is quiet a bit of smoke west of the “smoke shield” seen in the above image — but it does not appear to be dense smoke.
— Mike Arsenault (@MikeGArsenault) July 4, 2015
You don’t usually think of smoke benefiting firefighters, especially their health, but the pollutants over a very widespread area are modifying the weather, making it a little easier to corral the numerous wildfires in some areas.
Below is an excerpt from The Weather Network.
Thursday, July 2, 2015, 5:14 PM – Even as plumes of heavy smoke from Alberta and Saskatchewan wildfires force thousands from their homes, officials find a silver lining, as the smoke is actually keeping the fires more under control.
Evacuation centres in central and southern Saskatchewan are reportedly housing at least 5,000 people as of Thursday, all displaced from their homes by thick smoke drifting down from wildfires burning in northern parts of the province. The evacuations were prompted by the significant health risk this smoke represents, and Environment Canada has issued special air quality statements for northeastern Alberta, all of Saskatchewan and all but the northeastern regions of Manitoba in response.
Despite this health risk, though, the thick smoke is actually having a beneficial impact on the very fires that are producing it in the first place.
“As much as it’s not good for people, because the cloud layer filled with smoke and is so thick, our temperatures are roughly 10 degrees cooler and our humidity is 10 to 15 per cent higher,” said Steve Roberts, Executive Director of Saskatchewan’s Wildfire Management Branch, according to the Canadian Press. “That combination means the fire activity drops significantly.”
“It’s helped us secure, especially, those fires that are close to communities by putting people on the ground and getting some hose lines in place.”
But, the smoke is a double-edged sword. Sometimes the reduced visibility grounds firefighting aircraft:
— 650 CKOM (@CKOMNews) July 3, 2015
The video below of a wildfire in Saskatchewan is stunning. It appears that the photographer was quite close to a very, very active fire.
If your device can’t handle the video above, try it at this site.
Smoke from wildfires in Canada has been migrating into large sections of the United States for several days, and that trend continues today. Even in, for example, southwest South Dakota my view of the Seven Sisters is degraded by particulates from those fires. A couple of days ago quite a number of people searching on the Internet for “fire Rapid City” or “fire Black Hills”, ended up on Wildfire Today, thinking there was a wildfire nearby.
To be fair to Canada, some of the smoke in the U.S., but a comparatively small amount, is coming from fires in Washington and Oregon.