Smoke forecast for Friday morning, August 21

August 20, 2020 | 9:11 p.m. MDT

wildfire Smoke forecast 6 a.m. MDT August 21, 2020
Wildfire smoke forecast 6 a.m. MDT August 21, 2020.

The map above shows the forecast for the distribution of vertically integrated smoke from wildfires at 6 a.m. MDT Friday August 21, 2020. It looks bleak for the western United States.

We are searching for a good, reliable, easy to understand, accurate predictor for wildfire smoke, after trying some that did not meet that description. The forecast above is for vertically integrated smoke, more than 1,000 feet above the ground. It should be most visible at sunrise and sunset, turning it beautifully orange or red depending on the density.

If this map and the one below, for 6 a.m. MDT Friday, seem to be accurate for your location, or not, let us know in a comment.

The map below predicts for 6 a.m. MDT Friday, near-surface smoke, technically within eight meters of the ground, which would have more of an effect on humans and animals with breathing difficulties. If you’re in one of the denser smoke areas you might be able to smell it. The little lines on the map are “wind barbs”, indicating the speed and direction of the wind. In our view they needlessly clutter the map.

Near Surface wildfire smoke
Near Surface wildfire smoke forecast 6 a.m. MDT August 21, 2020.

Typos, let us know HERE. And, please keep in mind our commenting ground rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

31 thoughts on “Smoke forecast for Friday morning, August 21”

  1. I live in Redding, CA. I was just outside and it’s not bad. Lots of smoke west of me and more on the east side of the valley.

    I’ll give an update at daylight.

        1. I had problems with accuracy from that site and stopped using it. The fancy user interface for selecting the forecast time was flakey, undependable, and sometimes led to erroneous results.

  2. Bill–
    Some low-cost monitors provide real-time data on particle levels. It’s not a prediction, but knowing what it looks like just before you make a prediction might sometimes help. For example, at 9:50 PM on Thursday night on the West Coast, the levels look like this:

    https://www.purpleair.com/map?opt=1/mPM25/a0/cC0#4/41.7/-113.62

    The entire SF Bay region has looked like this for more than a day now, so the present may well predict the future.
    Does this link work for you?

    The PurpleAir monitors (purpleair.com) now number about 9,000 worldwide, and all can be accessed on the Web at any time.

    The sky tonight looked very weird, a dirty grey over a large section of the sky, but a bright edge underlying the cloud on the Western horizon as the sun was setting.

  3. Greetings,
    I agree with you Bill on the NWS Near Surface smoke maps. The arrows are not helpful and I don’t think they represent any relevant local wind patterns either.
    I could be wrong on that claim. However, that NS smoke map would seem to be the logical go to Wildfire smoke particulate reference map that would be considered as “most essential“ to everyone in the western United States, as it shows the actual smoke particulate that is close to the ground and that’s what you’re going to breathing in if you are doing something that involves a lot of aerobic activity.
    It looks like Cal Fire‘s report for the LMU complex fires tomorrow morning is going to be pretty bad in terms of property loss and possibly lives. I hope that I am wrong on that gut feeling.
    It’s just amazing how much Cal Fire has to take on every single year almost, in the form of these catastrophic, unprecedented wildfire disasters. This recent dry thunder cell, dry lightning bust is very much more of a typical spring season or monsoon season dry lightning event in the Intermountain West.
    I do know that lightning does occasionally spark fires in the Sierras and elsewhere in California, but what are those percentages in terms of putting them up against human caused ignitions in that state.
    Nonetheless, that was a shocking dry thunderstorm lightning event. I think it has to be completely unprecedented.
    Things were going pretty well in California for wildfires, until just now, the Apple fire was managed pretty well and the Lake Fire near Lancaster area was managed quickly as well.
    I would just say that what happened in Napa and Yolo counties and elsewhere with these 10,800 lightning strikes igniting these many hundreds of wildfires, was yet again, one of my worst fears come true, when an event like this happens and it’s just too much too fast, it simply overwhelms and outmatches a states own fire resources and the other fire resources that get ordered to come in from out of state to help out. That’s what this LMU Fire complex event sounds like right now, especially with all the other fires going on at the same time California.
    It’s an arson event on this scale to that scares me the most. I would never mention that anywhere except on this forum, because I’m sure that everyone else agrees with me, but would rather not even think about it.
    We just had that happen to us on a small scale in 2018 in Taos County and very luckily, we didn’t have any of those intentionally set fires get away and take off into the forest.
    Thank you Bill for sharing the smoke maps with us. They will be very useful in the coming years I’m sure.
    Just because the fire isn’t in your backyard, doesn’t mean it’s not impacting you. Stay safe everyone and pray for the safety of many many thousands of firefighters working brutal back to back shifts in 90-100 degree plus heat, right now in California, while getting shuffled around from one priority incident to the next, with Covid-19 lurking in the camps at night.
    We will get through this. Nonetheless, It’s not even fall yet in California, when the Santa Ana/Diablo winds will come and make things go crazy with new Fire starts.
    Peace,
    -Jamie B.

    1. I agree that purpleair.com is worth checking out.
      Checking back in from the four corners region and the wildfire smoke today is what I would consider moderate but you cannot smell it, we were kayaking on the Chama River & I can feel it in my throat a little bit, but I bet it’s much worse elsewhere, like in Nevada & Utah, Idaho & Montana.
      As per my last comment, I was right in my predictions of epic wildfire disasters that are taking place in northern California.
      Most notably for me was the story of the Big Basin redwoods state park were apparently burned over last night, they are in the Santa Cruz mountains north of the town of Santa Cruz.
      That is a huge huge bummer. It was our first land trust conservation project for the California State Park service project dating back to 1900. The ancient trees there are thousands of years old. I’m hoping they will survive this event. They have seen fire before and they are a fire adapted species,
      However, the park officials are very worried that the intensity of the fire might prove what I just said to be otherwise.
      The BB park officials put out a statement this am that’s a pretty interesting take on what they do know has taken place.
      However they have not been able to get back in to the park area and really assess the fires damage.
      They did say that they lost all of the original state park buildings going back to 1900. .
      I’m scared that the fires in the Santa Lucia range of northern Big Sur area will also propagate into those other ancient magnificent redwood grove areas as well, like the Julia Pfeiffer redwoods and Andrew Molero state Park and the Ventana redwoods.
      Unbelievable acreage has just been burned in about 36 hours since the lightning strikes were announced at August 17, 2020 at 6 PM.
      700,000 acres or 1000 square miles burned in the that time frame with at least 500 homes destroyed.
      That’s sounds like a new record to me.
      That number of structures lost is going to go into the thousands when this event is finally finished.
      Like I said earlier, It was just too much fire, too fast and there’s not much you can do except get people and pets and big farm & ranch animals safely out of the way.
      Let’s hope for some good news with the weather concerns for all the fire fighters involved in these great battles.
      And they say this is not a climate change induced event.
      What part of the recording of the hottest temperature ever recorded on planet earth so far on August 17 and 18th did the news writers not get.
      A record breaking heat wave in mid August getting mixed up with some high humidity lying off the coast creating the cumulus clouds necessary for the dry thunder cell lightning storm event certainly makes it possible for these perfect fire storms to exist, doesn’t it?
      This event is unique though. It’s kind of like that fire tornado that appeared in the first few hours of the Carr Fire in Redding California. As a result, California now has an official F3 Fujitsu scale tornado, that had fire in it.
      Was that a climate change induced event?
      Yes. It was 112° when that fire started. It had been over 100° for almost 30 days in Redding. That makes for some exceptionally active fire behavior, doesn’t it?
      But what do I know? I’m just trying to connect a few dots that seem to make sense to me.
      Stay safe everyone and stay Firewise! JB

  4. I tend to prefer surface data because, as Bill suggested, that is the air I breath. I am retired, and spend a lot of time out of doors. Low concentrations of smoke do not bother me, but I remember working outside during the Yellowstone fires of 1998. We were miserable, 365 miles east of the park. That experience certainly heightened my appreciation for wildland firefighters and the potential for long term pulmonary problems they face!

    If there was a practical and consistent way to extrapolate current or future surface conditions from the maps showing smoke distribution in the upper atmosphere, they would be more useful. I use weather maps a great deal. I find the wind direction indicators helpful, but only if the altitude for the directional arrows is published because that data can vary greatly at different levels of the atmosphere.

  5. Albuquerque, New Mexico
    We can smell smoke here and the local mountains are in a smoky haze. Especially bad late in the afternoon. Strange we can smell wildfires in California ! Air seems like it would be unhealthy to breathe. But no official word on that.

    1. Definitely a haze in Albuquerque. Friends in Santa Fe report what they think is ash in the air. Probably from the medio fire near Tesuque and also the fires in Colorado.

  6. Maps seem fine in Reno NV. Although not forecasts, I tend to use fire.airnow.gov and weather underground’s wundermap for current information. Of course I can tell local smokiness without the help of the Internet 🙂 but I find it helpful to know where we are in the bigger scheme of things, and where smoke is coming from. Very much appreciate all your efforts maintaining this site, thank you Bill!!

  7. Smoke heavier this morning (8/21) in Boulder CO. Had early winds, but doesn’t seem to make a difference (maybe blew more smoke in from the west?). Last couple days were lighter, however
    Is is a fair assumption that the impacts are heavier in the North-Western states (incl. WY, MT, UT, NV, and CA (of course) – and NM looks better. Is that due to winds going ENE?
    Thinking of a late summer road trip next week with guest form the East and trying to decide to go north or south (not west) from Denver, CO.
    Any comments? (Going east isn’t an option 🙂

    1. Here in Lake Isabella, California the air is thick and smokey, with the smell of burnt wood. I believe it’s the worst day yet. I appreciate this map and everything you’re doing. Major Thanks.

  8. I like the wind barbs because they can show me how the low-level smoke will move in future hours. Overall, the HRRR Smoke forecasts are very good and getting better with each upgrade of the model.

    Note: Former NWS forecaster/fire weather forecaster and that influences how I view model data.

  9. I am a self-proclaimed (ha!), amateur meteorologist who did take a meteorology course as an elective when I was working towards my BA. I have also written a weather column for the retirement town that I moved to. I like the wind barbs. I don’t find they distract from the color overlay at all, and I like to see what the wind prediction/ condition is in those locations.

  10. I agree with other folks from Albuquerque who commented earlier: at dawn/dusk the sun is red and the haze contributes to ABQ’s already gorgeous sunrise and sunset. I’ve had red eyes and a cough as a result of the smoke for the last few days but I work outside part of each day.
    The City of Albuquerque’s Environment Department sends out (to those who sign up) a daily email, “Today’s Air Quality,” which has today’s data on pollen, particulate matter & relative humidity. It also offers a forecast for the following day and a link to the NM fire info site. The data comes from CABQ Enviro Dept, the NWS, and Airnow.gov. For today as of 7AM, the AQI was 54, or in the moderate range (“sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion”).
    Thank you for the great work on reporting and educating about all aspects of wildfire.

  11. Significant difference between maps in southeast Arizona. While both show the smoke we’re experiencing here, the vertically integrated map indicates the main source is in Mexico, while the near-surface map implies the source is in the north. A locally measured AQI is 87. The vertically integrated map may be overstating how much smoke we see and breath.

  12. In Santa Rosa, CA, about 30 miles south of the Walbridge fire and about 40 miles east of the Meyers Grade fire the winds are continuously shifting sending smoke primarily to the east or south and point between. At times the air is very clear and others smokey to the ground. For that reason I use the Purpleair.com site for very local conditions being able to see air quality on the other side of town, even. The smoke maps provided here are, for me a guide of winds aloft.

  13. This “forecast” looks pretty accurate for the very unhealthy air quality we have been experiencing in Reno. I was hoping, I guess, for an actual longer range forecast, something like “the upper air currents will shift and smoke will be reduced by Aug 23” or something hopeful like that?? Maybe it just isn’t possible, but day after day of unbreathable air, compounded by covid and other world issues, leaves me hinging my positivity on clean air soon! Thank you for this same day one though; I’ll take what I can get 🙂

  14. I’m here in Grants, NM in the northwestern part of the state. We have been under a heavy pink haze all day for the past 4 days Today was a bit less hazy. The smoke seems to be coming from all directions, though the south and west seem to be the thickest input. It is difficult to know exactly which fires are affecting us at this point. The new moon is reddish tonight and quite beautiful.

  15. We’ve had haziness in the sky for the past several days in south-central Nebraska. Most notable during sunrises and sunsets. Fortunately, no odor, but it is rather claustrophobic. Not yet any mention in the local newspaper, but I’m assuming it’s coming from the West Coast. We also received the Saharan dust cloud a few months back and Canadian wildfire smoke a few years ago. Normally, our airshed is quite pristine, here.

  16. 23 August – northern Colorado – heavy smoke haze and smoke odor. Some ash present on surfaces. An airline pilot related that smoke trail is present, SFO – DEN, at 36,000 and ground visibility, at altitude, in western US greatly diminished.

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