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West coast wildfire smoke over Central Nebraska

Hazy days continue
Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 6:33 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - You may have seen recent extreme wildfires raging in California, Oregon and Washington, but now they’re affecting our air quality as well. The smoke has gotten caught in the jet stream, which has transported it to the Central Plains. There are models which allow us to trace where a volume of air traveled or will travel, and I ran it back four days for the air over Hastings today.

The HYSPLIT model allows tracing of the path of a volume of air through time. Central Nebraska's haze came from West Coast wildfire smoke.
The HYSPLIT model allows tracing of the path of a volume of air through time. Central Nebraska's haze came from West Coast wildfire smoke.

Following the three lines back (representing different levels), we find that the air came from off the Pacific Coast of Oregon on Sunday. At this time, there was a large plume of smoke over the Pacific. In time, it would be lofted by winds and be carried East, then Southeast around a clockwise-rotating high pressure region over the South-Central Rockies.

NASA imagery shows a large plume of smoke out over the Pacific Ocean from wildfires in California and Oregon. This image is from 12 September, 2020.
NASA imagery shows a large plume of smoke out over the Pacific Ocean from wildfires in California and Oregon. This image is from 12 September, 2020.

We can forecast where the air mass containing the smoke will now go if we go forward. You can watch the animation in the video, but it will still be a few days before the smoke can be scoured out. A plume of smoke may concentrate over South Dakota on Friday and move into Iowa, bringing quite poor air quality. Around that time frame, northeast Nebraska will also see poor conditions, although not quite as bad. For those with respiratory conditions or allergies, you may notice symptoms more than you would on a clear day. Most of the smoke should be clear of Nebraska by next week.

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