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Smoke from western wildfires makes it into Virginia

Hazy skies plus brilliant sunsets for a few days
Smoke from Western Wildfires bring an orange tint to the morning sun.
Smoke from Western Wildfires bring an orange tint to the morning sun.(nbc12)
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 10:12 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2021 at 2:07 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Wildfires continue to burn on the west coast, from California into Western Canada. The fires are thousands of miles away but the impact is being felt right here in Virginia.

Here’s a current map of active fires in the United States, from The USDA Forest Service. You can click on the link to see updated information every day.

Map as of July 20, 2021
Map as of July 20, 2021(USDA Forest Service)

It’s been an early and BIG start to fire season, fueled in part by record heat and long term drought from the Rockies to the Pacific. The smoke from the fires doesn’t magically dissipate. That takes time. And when there’s a LOT of smoke, like now, it can hold together and travel far from its source.

This map below shows winds around 30,000 feet. That’s a little high, but shows the general wind pattern right now. The red line shows the path the smoke is taking.

250mb wind flow across the US, showing what winds around 30,000 feet are doing
250mb wind flow across the US, showing what winds around 30,000 feet are doing(Weathermodels.com)

The haze was easy to see this morning in Richmond.

Unlike many smoke “events,” this smoke isn’t all elevated. Meaning some is staying near the surface where it can impact air quality. Jeremy Hoffman from the Science Museum of Virginia replied to my tweet with the data:

I doubt Virginia will get dangerous air quality but the smoke is dense enough in some places to raise concerns. Also [Edit: the smoke smell shouldn’t be too bad but in my time outside today, I think I smelled a little]

But skies will be hazy through at least Wednesday (maybe longer) plus our sunrises and sunsets will likely have a deep orange or red tint.

Note from Academy for the Advancement of Science: “Human-caused climate change is a significant contributor to the increasing size and intensity of, and damage from, western U.S. wildfires”

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