Weather Blog

Wildfire smoke shows how inversions work

Wildfire smoke shows how inversions work

The wildfire burning over in the Olympic Mountains is making for some hazy skies and eerily red sunsets, but it's also providing a visual lesson in how inversions work on these warm, clear days.

Dr. Dale Ireland, as you likely know by now, has a web camera pointing at the Olympic Mountains from his perch in Silverdale and has captured this diurnal effect quite clearly.

In the morning hours, when the ground cools, you can see the cold air sink down the mountains, helping suppress the smoke like a lid, keeping it low to the ground.

But as the day -- and the ground -- warms up, eventually this process reverses and the lid goes 'poof' allowing the hot smoke to roar to the skies.

Ireland says agencies are requesting access to his time lapse-videos to help learn the process and teach others how wildfires work in these conditions.

"The forest service has asked for my time-lapses to demonstrate this effect to their people, as it happens very fast," he said. Even a government air quality manager in Victoria is requesting them."

Here are some from the past week. Just watch around midday as the smoke explodes skyward once the cap is dissolved. In the first video, that happens at about the 35-second mark.

Sept. 5:

Sept. 4:

Sept. 7:

This also can give a good visualization of how supercell thunderstorms can explode in the Midwest to severe status quickly once these morning caps on the atmosphere are broken.