Weather Blog

Northwest wildfires take 'shine' out of Midwestern sunshine

Northwest wildfires take 'shine' out of Midwestern sunshine
Photo: Jonathan Yuhas, KSTP-TV.

The wildfires raging across Washington, Oregon and Idaho are not only bringing a dense, smoky haze to much of the area just to the east of the Cascades, but its effects are being felt over 1,000 miles away across the Upper Midwest.

Jonathan Yuhas, a meteorologist with KSTP-TV in Minneapolis, noted that skies over Minnesota have taken a "frosty haze" to them ever since the wildfires have erupted here in the Northwest.

The photos above show just how the skies have changed in the past week. The photo on the left showing a deep, blue sky was taken on July 6 before the big wildfires erupted. The one on the right was taken on July 17. (The puffy clouds in there are routine afternoon cumulus clouds, not related in any way to the fires.)

The upper air pattern shows winds were blowing out of the west across the Northwest, then took a dip to the south around an upper level trough then (not pictured as it's off the screen) pulled north back into the Minnesota/Wisconsin/Illinois/Michigan areas.



You can see the progression of the wildfire smoke across the northern tier of the U.S. using the high-resolution MODIS satellite:

Here it is on July 17 for the Pacific Northwest, showing where the wildfires are burning and pointing out the smoke drifting east (the hazy smudges on the satellite image):



Unfortunately, the MODIS didn't capture full scans that day for much of the rest of the region, but I was able to piece-meal these two. Here is just east of the Rockies:



And here is the Upper Midwest. Minneapolis is tough to see amid the satellite scan lines but I've highlighted it. You can see the white haze around the region there -- looks like Chicago also had a hazy, smoky day there as well.



An approaching trough Tuesday into Wednesday will shift the upper air winds more southerly where the smoke will likely soon be carried into southern B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan.

We're hoping that trough will bring some badly-needed rain to the wildfire regions as well, but the rain may come with a price of more lightning with strong, erratic winds near storms and heavy rain that could trigger flooding in burned out areas.

(Here is KSTP's story on the wildfire smoke in Minneapolis:)

Pacific Coast residents wonder: Who needs a meteorologist?

Pacific Coast residents wonder: Who needs a meteorologist?
Shore Acres State Park in Oregon (Photo courtesy Flickr user Doug Kerr. (Via CC 2.0 license.)

Would you like to live in a place where no matter what the weather is, be it sunshine, pouring rain, or a foggy overcast, the temperature is about the same?

All you have to do is head west, stop just before you get pummeled by ocean surf, then either put in your tent stakes or, more comfortably, talk to a local real estate agent.

Photos: More dramatic pics of Earth from International Space Station

Photos: More dramatic pics of Earth from International Space Station
We flew over a big tropical cyclone “Guito” near Madagascar this morning. (Photo & Caption courtesy Koichi Wakata (@Astro_Wakata) and NASA)

Surreal pics: Nebraska homes, cars blasted by tennis ball-sized hail

Surreal pics: Nebraska homes, cars blasted by tennis ball-sized hail
A home's siding is torn off after being blistered by large hail and strong winds in Hooper, Nebraska on June 3, 2014. (Photo courtesy: Kevin Krohn )

If it was in Mother Nature's playbook, it was used against parts of Nebraska Tuesday evening: Torrential rain, constant lightning, near-hurricane-force winds, tornadoes, and tennis ball-sized hail...

Pretty much all at the same time.

Let's start with the torrential rain as I was wide-eyed watching the rainfall numbers come in from Omaha.

The storm began with quite the punch, bringing a burst of rainfall and a gust of wind that was clocked at 72 mph!

The rain just kept going from there, which included jaw-dropping rainfall rates that saw over a half-inch of rain (0.53") fall in 3 minutes! That's 0.01" of rain per 3.4 seconds.

Photos show towering hailstorms over South Carolina

Photos show towering hailstorms over South Carolina
A towering thunderstorm is seen over South Carolina on May 23, 2014 as photographed by Stu Broce with NASA's IPHEX project

We're all likely familiar with what a hail storm looks like from the ground -- around here, it's as if someone dumped gazillions of frozen peas on the ground... if the peas were made of ice.

But have you ever seen a big hailstorm from the top? (And I mean BIG hailstorm, not the "what passes for big in Portland but Midwesterners and East Coasties laugh as child's play" hailstorm? The kind that could be disguised as a golf ball or, when you're really in for it, a softball?)

Gorgeous time lapse video shows off intricacies of fog

Gorgeous time lapse video shows off intricacies of fog
Photo: Simon Christen

Nothing shows off the beauty of fog like time lapse video.

Photographer Simon Christen, who put together one of my all-time favorite videos, "Adrift" that shows a series of foggy time lapse videos in San Francisco, is out with a new video "A Time Lapse Collection" that has more fog from the Bay Area, as well as a trip to Dubai.

In harm's way: Cameras provide views from inside a tornado

In harm's way: Cameras provide views from inside a tornado

With cameras everywhere these days, it's inevitable that a tornado will find a few over the course of the stormy seasons.

The most recent one was a surveillance camera stationed outside a church in Tupelo, Miss. as an F3 tornado struck in April.

Northwest climate change report: Shrinking snowpacks, drier summers

Northwest climate change report: Shrinking snowpacks, drier summers
FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2012 file photo, Natural Resources Conservation Service employees Chris Mundy, front, and Nicholle Kovach measure snow depth at a site near Wanoga Snoplay Area west of Bend, Ore. (AP Photo/The Bulletin, Rob Kerr)

Tuesday was a big day in the science community with the release of a major federal scientific report on climate change.

The 840-page report, several years in the making, looks at regional and state-level effects of global warming, compared with recent reports from the United Nations that lumped all of North America together. A draft of the report was released in January 2013, but this version has been reviewed by more scientists, the National Academy of Science and 13 government agencies and had public comment.

It is written in a bit more simple language so people could realize "that there's a new source of risk in their lives," said study lead author Gary Yohe of Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

The report breaks the nation down into 8 geographical regions, including the Pacific Northwest, which for their report encompasses Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Video highlights the extraordinary nighttime sky shows we're missing

Video highlights the extraordinary nighttime sky shows we're missing
On the left: The nighttime glow of the Puget Sound region. On the right, the Northern Lights are visible in Eastern Washington. Photo courtesy: Don Jensen

Local photographer Don Jensen is on a mission.

An outdoor and astronomy enthusiast, Jensen has developed a narrative time lapse video that shows what humanity's efforts to erase the nighttime darkness in our cities has taken on the night sky, and the interaction (or lack thereof) that we are having with starry skies. 

"Escape the Light Dome" introduces us to our world where we are blinding ourselves to a view of the universe.

First of 4 'Blood Moon' lunar eclipses set for Monday night

First of 4 'Blood Moon' lunar eclipses set for Monday night
FILE -- A lunar eclipse shines over the Space Needle in Seattle on Feb. 20, 2008 (Photo courtesy: Clane Gessel)

Our sunrises and sunsets are legendary around here, but how would you like to see all the sunrises and sunsets on Earth -- at the same time! And it doesn't even require a trip to outer space.

Instead, the moon is going to essentially turn into an astronomical version of a projection screen as we get the first of four consecutive lunar eclipses over the next two years.

Even though the moon will be in the Earth's shadow, it should appear a bit colorful, some shade of red or orange. That's from light around the edges of the Earth - essentially all the sunrises and sunsets at the moment - splashing on the lunar surface and faintly lighting up the moon, said Alan MacRobert, senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine.