Weather Blog

Smoke from Siberian wildfires turns Northwestern sunsets a fiery red

Smoke from Siberian wildfires turns Northwestern sunsets a fiery red
Sun sets over Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains on April 18, 2015. (Photo: Sigma Sreedharan Photography)

The scenes have almost felt like they're out of Hollywood imagination -- brilliant red sunrises and sunsets the last couple of days around Western Washington.

Why so red? It's a byproduct of the massive wildfires that recently burned a large area in Siberia.

The atmospheric winds are aligned this week to carry the smoke across the Pacific Ocean and into the Pacific Northwest.

First up, to get an idea of just how much smoke is in the atmosphere, look at this visible satellite image taken on April 14 of the southeastern Siberia area where the wildfires got out of control:


Credit: NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Adam Voiland.

Where did the smoke go? This graphic is a model trajectory tracing back the air pattern across the Pacific Ocean over the past week. Note the air from the wildfires makes somewhat of a bee line toward Seattle (with a brief stop for a loop-de-loop in the central Pacific:)

Amazingly the smoke is still quite intense when it gets here -- check out this high-resolution satellite image from Saturday and note the haze over Washington and British Columbia:

Note it's getting carried back offshore a bit then pushed back east into Southern Oregon:


Photo courtesy NASA/MODIS satellite

Why does it make the skies red? The smoke particles in the atmosphere help filter out the shorter wavelength colors of sunlight -- the greens, blues, yellows and purples, while the longer wavelength reds and oranges have a better chance of getting through the air unfiltered. You notice it at sunrise and sunset because when the sun is lower on the horizon, its light has more of Earth's atmosphere to travel through to get to your eye, so the filtering process is more complete.

The intense effect on our sunsets despite the wildfires being 3,500-4,000 miles away gives you some idea how bad the fires were in Siberia, where 15 people have died and hundreds are injured. In addition, over 1,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged.

The fires were started in Khakassia, a region in southeastern Siberia, by farmers burning the grass in their fields, but spread quickly because of strong winds. By early morning the fires in all 38 villages in the area had been put out with the help of aircraft and 6,000 firefighters, Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said, adding that rescue workers will remain in the area to clear the debris.

Locally that means air quality should improve in the days ahead and the sunsets should return to more traditional shades of color.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

Weather blog: Hot, dry summer now the prohibitive favorite

Weather blog: Hot, dry summer now the prohibitive favorite
Photo courtesy: Mike Reid Photography

Just like a song that has the same verse over... and over.... and over...

and over....

Here comes the fresh 90 day forecast from the NOAA's National Climate Prediction Center and the story...is the same. In fact, it might be even more declarative: May is going to be hot and dry. Late spring is going to be hot and dry.

The summer is going to be hot and dry.

The autumn will be... warm.

Weak tornado touches down outside of Bremerton?

Weak tornado touches down outside of Bremerton?
Photo courtesy: Elaine Lunyou-Blankenship & Family.

Monday was another stormy day around the Puget Sound region, but it appears it was a bit extra-stormy on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Elaine Lunyou-Blankenship's husband snapped this photo of what appears to be a weak tornado that touched down west of Bremerton Monday afternoon around 4:15 p.m.

Lightning leaves a rather twisted scar on Olympia tree

Lightning leaves a rather twisted scar on Olympia tree
Photo: Barbara Engelhart

I have to admit even being a weather geek, I hadn't really thought much about how lightning strikes a tree, but this photo taken by Barbara Engelhart got me wondering how this particular lightning bolt chose its path to the ground.

"We had an interesting lighting strike here in Olympia on Wednesday afternoon," Engelhart wrote to me. "It sounded like a bomb went off or propane tank explosion. After looking around our property I came across one of the fir trees that had a spiral pattern on it and bark and wood gouged out."

UW: 'Warm blob' in Pacific Ocean linked to weird weather across the U.S.

UW: 'Warm blob' in Pacific Ocean linked to weird weather across the U.S.
"The blob" in April 2014, as shown in the July 2014 newsletter where it got its evocative name. The scale is in degrees Celsius. (Photo courtesy: NOAA)

As Seattle sits on a streak of four of the past six month setting records for warmest on record, a new University of Washington study pins the "blame" (or "credit" depending on your opinion of endless 50+ degree days in winter) on a large and persistent pool of warm water that has been entrenched in the Pacific Ocean off our coast.

The waters have been averaging about 3-7 degrees above normal and researchers at the UW say it's been a major factor in the West Coast's recent warm stretches, and in turn, the winter to remember (or forget) across the East Coast.

Space Station gets incredible photos of Super Typhoon Maysak

Space Station gets incredible photos of Super Typhoon Maysak

It's sad that something so beautiful has to be so destructive...

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti snapped these photos of Super Typhoon Maysak as it swirled in the western Pacific Ocean earlier this week. The photos show a pronounced eye center of the storm that at the time was a Category 5 storm -- the top rung of the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale.

Early risers to be treated to a lunar eclipse Saturday

Early risers to be treated to a lunar eclipse Saturday
FILE -- A lunar eclipse shines over the Space Needle in Seattle on Feb. 20, 2008 (Photo courtesy: Clane Gessel)

 

Editor's note: Didn't get to see the lunar eclipse? Check out what you missed in our Blood Moon photo gallery!

SEATTLE -- Usually Saturdays are made for sleeping in but if you want to get up super early this Saturday, you might just catch a lunar eclipse.

Scientists expect totality - when the full moon is completely obscured by Earth's shadow - to last just several minutes, beginning at 4:57 a.m. PDT. Most of the eclipsed moon should appear reddish-orange.

Watch: Lightning strikes two jets on approach to Sea-Tac Airport

Watch: Lightning strikes two jets on approach to Sea-Tac Airport

SEATTLE -- Some of the people on their way into Seattle Wednesday evening got quite the hello from Mother Nature as lightning struck two different jets as they approached Sea-Tac Airport.

University of Washington student Owen Craft was out in the University District trying to film lightning strikes as a thunderstorm moved through and caught the two massive bolts as they passed through the planes' fuselage.

"I was stunned for a second because I couldn't believe what I just saw," Craft said. "After the second (plane) got hit, I knew I was on to something spectacular!"

Surf's up? Massive 'wave' cloud spotted near Boeing plant

Surf's up? Massive 'wave' cloud spotted near Boeing plant
Photo of Kelvin-Helmholtz cloud over Everett on April 2, 2015. (Photo: Chuck Benson)

Chuck Benson snapped these rather strange looking clouds outside the Boeing Everett 87 building Thursday morning.

It looks like the surf's up in the sky, and in a way it is. These are called "Kelvin-Helmholtz" clouds, caused when you have wind shear --that is, layers of air moving in different speeds or directions. As those layers interact with clouds, you can get turbulence that causes these impressive wave-like formations to occur.

Add it to the pile: March sets record for all-time warmest in Seattle

Add it to the pile: March sets record for all-time warmest in Seattle
Sunset on another mild day in Seattle on March 21, 2015.

The end-of-the-month blogs these days seem to write themselves, just change the month...

For the fourth time in the past six months, Seattle has set the record for all-time warmest month. March 2015 now joins brethren October, December and February as the warmest on record at Sea-Tac Airport (70 years of data) by average monthly temperature -- found by taking the high and low and divided by two.

Time lapse video shows how those spooky 'hat' clouds form on Mt. Rainier

The sometimes-eerie-looking "Hat" clouds -- officially known as lenticular clouds -- are no stranger to Mt. Rainier. But while to many it might just look like a cloud frozen in time, there is actually quite a bit of air movement involved in making the clouds.

KOMO News photographer Mitch Pittman was up hiking in the Cascades recently and managed to get this amazing time lapse video (above) of a lenticular cloud sitting atop Mt. Rainier. The video is a great illustration of the flow that goes into making the cloud's lens-type feature.

Strange but true: Washington has more tornadoes this year than Midwest states

Strange but true: Washington has more tornadoes this year than Midwest states

Scott's Note: The story was true when published on March 23, 2015. There have since been tornadoes in the Midwest as of March 25.

In proof that you can spin statistics in numerous ways, you could truthfully declare that Washington has been one of the most tornado-prone states in the nation this year.

That includes typical tornado alley stalwarts Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. At least as of March 23, they haven't had any tornadoes reported! They join 43 other states with that distinction.