Wildfire haze

A hazy view showcases ominious skies overhead.

Did you see it? The smoky haze from West Coast wildfires that had stretched all the way to Vermont, filtering the sun but painting our sunrises and sunsets crimson, seemed to have moved on.

But it may be back at the end of this week.

Record-breaking fires in California, Oregon and Washington, many sparked by lightning strikes, have burnt huge areas over the last month.

The smoke from the fires has not only reached Vermont, last week it also reached Europe, according to BBC.

The haze was visible last week in the Green Mountain State because of jet stream action.

Although there are photographs and news stories galore about the poor air quality in California because of blazes being battled currently, the haze here was too high to have an impact on breathing, said meteorologist Eric Evenson with the National Weather Service in Burlington.

While tragic, on the eastern part of the country, the effects of the fires have proven photogenic. Shelburne Town Manager Lee Krohn sent a landcape photo of the orange sky.

He recommended paying attention to what you focus on when shooting photos of the haze, particularly if using auto-focus.

Evenson said the haze is also not going to have much long-term impact on local weather either, although it might have lowered the temperature last week a degree or two.

“Usually when we get situations where air quality can be an issue from fires, a lot of different fires might be in Quebec and the smoke comes down over our area,” Evenson said. “Because this was transported by the jet stream and so high up in the atmosphere, it allowed it to kind of make for easy conditions.”

If smoke is low enough to impact visibility it can impact air quality.

“It came at such a high level that it is more of a kind of a gee-whiz kind of thing than impactful weather wise,” he said.

Getting smoky haze from fires far away is not a common occurrence but it does happen, Evenson said. Two years ago, smoke from wildfires in western Canada and Alaska made it to the sky over Vermont.

The haze moved out at the end of last week when the flow patterns of the jet stream shifted and were coming out of Ontario and Quebec where the sky was clear of smoke.

But, Evenson said, towards the middle of this week it looked like the prevailing winds may have shifted and we may be getting more upper level wind from western Canada and British Columbia.

So, by the time this newspaper has been printed, the sky may have turned hazy again.

Things may be looking up for firefighters and people threatened by fires in Oregon and Washington because this is the time of year when systems carrying precipitation move in, Evenson said.

The bad news for the Golden State is those rainy systems often have a hard time moving down into California, he said.

The outlook for fires is bad into October for California when the prevailing winds often become strong, which helps to spread wildfires, he said.

“I’d venture to say we’re definitely going to see the fire situation persisting in California for quite for quite some time,” Evenson said.

Since the smoke is so high in the atmosphere here, it won’t have much impact on the forecast for winter, he said.

But what will the forecast be?

The official prediction about whether the coming winter will be warm or cold won’t be made until next month. He said the three-month prediction is for normal temperatures and precipitation for us through December.

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