Fire Smoke & Long Range Outlook

The first large forest fire close to the metro area in at least 20 years sent a lot of smoke our way the past few days.  The 36 Pit fire continues to burn just a few miles southeast of Estacada this evening; luckily winds have been light so far.

Air quality was actually surprisingly good in the Portland Metro area, in the GOOD category all day.  That’s because we had a light east and north wind in our area, sending most of the smoke south into the central and southern Willamette Valley.  Salem’s air quality was pretty bad in the afternoon; visibility was down to just over 2 miles at one point!

The good news is that a marine push (cooler ocean air) has developed this evening and the westerly wind is already pushing the smoke out of the valleys…slowly.  You can see what happened at Salem as the westerly wind kicked in…dramatic improvement in the air quality:


Tomorrow should be much better as the light westerly flow pushes just about all the smoke up into the Cascades.

This was a relatively close call for our area.  The closest we’ve seen a 1,000 acre or larger fire is way up on Mt. Hood or just east of Hood River the past 20 years.  We haven’t seen that much acreage burning within 30 miles of downtown Portland, although I have a feeling the Multnomah Falls Fire in 1991 covered a lot of ground/acres in a short period of time.  I moved to the metro area just a few weeks after that one.

The long range outlook still looks warmer than average for much of the next two weeks (the rest of September).  Here are the two ensemble charts from the 12z ECMWF:


and the 18z GFS:


Notice the ECMWF  is all over the place after next weekend’s warmup, but seems to be near/below average.  The 18z GFS is crazy warm with two more “hot spells” before we end the month.  It’s always best to follow the average of the ensembles (red line), which is still much warmer than normal.  The monthly ECMWF run last night showed ridging holding much of the next two weeks, then the ridge backing offshore into it’s preferred position over the past year and a half.  That’s out in the Gulf of Alaska.  That would cool us dramatically, but not a real wet pattern into early October.





We haven’t seen a widespread soaking in almost two months now; the last wet days were the third week of July.  And I don’t see a good soaking in the next 10 days at least.  We’ll see a few hundredths Thursday or early Friday, but that’s it and it won’t do your garden/lawn/trees any good.  Keep watering!

With today’s 90 degree temperature, we’ve now seen 20 days at/above 90 degrees this warm season, it’s been hot!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

27 Responses to Fire Smoke & Long Range Outlook

  1. Paul D says:

    Starting to rain in Aloha.

  2. BobbiB says:

    What can we expect in the Gorge with smoke in the next few days? I heard it was very smoking in Hood River.

  3. schmit44 says:

    9/16/2014 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:96 at DW9659 Richland(2379 ft) & Rye Valley(I-84(2230 ft) & DW1597 Troy(1612 ft) & GRANDE RONDE RIV(1594 ft)
    Low: 67 at MORGAN MOUNTAIN(4200 ft) & DW9628 Richland(4046 ft)

    High:61 at Port Orford(0 ft)
    Low: 28 at DIMLKE (4726 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 54 degrees
    CW5507 Camp Sher (92/38 ) (3020 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    0.06″ at Rome(4049ft)
    0.03″ at OWYHEE RIDGE(4400ft)

  4. Paul D says:

    Wasn’t the forecast for Wednesday under 80? Sigh…….

  5. Jason Hougak says:

    Fire is getting much closer. I live in the foothills on the north side of Eagle Creek canyon and thick smoke now is pluming up straight across about 5 miles away as the crow flies. In the backyard now and am feeling a steady NE wind flow which is good for us here but no so good for those on the breaks of the Clackamas. Townhall meeting tonight at 7:30 at the Estacada First Baptist.

  6. Garron near Washington Square says:

    If I counted right, there have been 18 out of 24 weekend days above 85 degrees since July first at PDX. A 2:3 ratio of days hotter than 85 for Sat/Sun. There have only been 24 out of 55 days at or above 85 for weekdays, Mon-Fri from July 1st through September 15th.
    Less than 1:2 ratio of hotter than 85 degree days during the week.

    I think this has led to more people being more affected, either negatively or positively by this summer’s warm weather. If you think about it, more people work in air conditioned work places. Then they go home, and whether they have A/C’s at home and are worried about the cost of using it, or don’t have A/C’s and are losing sleep during these warmer than average nights, it has an affect on peoples’ perception of this summer’s heat.

    With the upcoming predictions, the next 1-2 weekends will not offer relief if you like it cooler, but at least the weekdays will be cooler. If you like it hot, then at least it seems more likely that you will get to enjoy it on your weekend…

  7. josh "the snowman" from Everett, wa says:

    Who is all going to the winter weather meeting ? I’ll be there and hopefully we can keep the weather station winnings under the sacred nelsen name, huh mat? Hey mark, we knocking the froth off a couple afterwards?

  8. Benjamin (West Salem) says:

    I can’t believe how hot and dry this September has been and continues to be. It will be interesting to see if a switch gets flipped at the very end of the month/beginning of October or if Oct stays warm and dry also.

    My understanding of El nino is that even if it’s a weak one, we generally get most of our weather action in the first part of the “winter” season.

  9. chevelleman says:

    Rain happening right now in Troutdale.

  10. schmit44 says:

    9/15/2014 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    High:98 at DW5789 Eagle Poi(1463 ft)
    Low: 67 at CW8242 Ashland(3451 ft)

    High:55 at Newport Municipa(161 ft)
    Low: 30 at Horse Ridge (US (4160 ft ) & KIRK (4519 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 57 degrees
    CW9027 Ukiah (89/32 ) (3415 ft )
    Timber Junction (92/36) (780 ft)
    Horse Ridge (US (86/30) (4160 ft)

  11. BoringOregon says:

    Thanks mark!! The smoke is getting real bad here, you can even see the glow of the fire in the night sky. I live about 10 mils away from the fire.

  12. Timmy_Supercell (Klamath Falls, OR) says:

    And to top this off, a 110,000+ acre wildfire in northern CA. It must have been a while since one that large has ever occurred.

    I had a chance of storms earlier but that flopped. The only lightning strikes were in SE Oregon. Then another chance around Thursday.

  13. Amazing how pathetic the temperature numbers for the first half of September, look for The Dalles. High temp just barely running above average at 84 degrees – and nights have actually been slightly on the cool side. Hot September? WHAT hot September?!?

    • W7ENK says:

      It’s been hot over here…

      That doesn’t include yesterday, but my temp briefly hit 90.6 before the smoke got really thick and dropped temps back down.

      That makes two “official” heat waves so far this September, with the possibility of at least one more in the extended. It’s been amazing! The complete lack of rainfall has been a bit odd…

  14. The Bad Forecaster says:


    It was hazy this morning up here in Tacoma. Oregon fires? Possibly to some degree I guess.

    Today was the 45th day this summer that the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had a high temperature of 80 degree plus or better weather. The record is 47 but that looks like it may not have a chance to at least be tied until next weekend as a cool down is forecast to take place over the next two to three days.

    On a side note about fires…

    I heard that an arsonist set some fires just a half mile outside the town Leavenworth, Washington yesterday. Fire crews were quickly on the fires before they got way out of hand in the area.

    This morning was the 5th morning in a row that my low temperature has plunged down to the 40’s overnight. Temperatures have been recovering to the 70’s and 80’s still each day though. So far I have only 0.06 inches of rain for the month of September. Even though the sprinkler system is working outside here in the mornings the ground still in several places feels like concrete in the gardens. Not good. :/

  15. Lurkyloo says:

    Wow, I didn’t even complain today. It was 90? Oh, my … I think I’ve become too used to this weather! I’m always whiny when it’s hot and now I’m not phased a bit. Hello again to all my foul weather friends! I’ve been lurking so I know what you did this summer! 😉

  16. W7ENK says:

    Smoke was really bad over Downtown Portland all day.

%d bloggers like this: