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'Not many scenarios that will keep smoke totally out of Western Washington in near future'

A kayaker paddles along Lake Washington on a smoky morning. (Photo: Scott Wilson)

SEATTLE -- The past two days have been a breath of fresh air for much (but not quite all) of Western Washington as air quality measurements have improved into the good/moderate range for many.

But some areas in the North Sound are still dealing with smoky conditions and forecasters warn that smoke will remain a stubborn part of the forecasts for a while longer in the summertime dry pattern.

MORE | Current Air Quality Readings

Several hundred wildfires remain burning to the north in British Columbia, with some wildfires to our northwest on Vancouver Island. Meanwhile, fires continue to burn to our east in Central and Eastern Washington, and even to our west, the Maple Fire is torching forest land on the Olympic Peninsula.

That means no matter which way the wind blows, it's likely to blow smoke in from *somewhere*.

"There are not very many scenarios that will keep smoke totally out of Western Washington in the near future," National Weather Service (Seattle) meteorologist Dana Felton wrote in the agency's Friday morning weather discussion. "West and southwesterly flow aloft will keep the smoke aloft from moving over the area but flow aloft in any other direction will bring more smoke to Western Washington. At the surface northerly and offshore flow will bring smoke from the fires in Eastern Washington and British Columbia and while a good marine push will scour the area out temporarily lighter onshore flow will bring smoke from the Maple fire in the Olympics across the Puget Sound into the Seattle area."

And don't forget, if we get a (fairly rare) southerly flow again, it'll bring up smoke from California fires, though that is not in the forecast.

In the short term, smoke is mostly pestering the North Sound as west/northwest flow aloft is bringing it in from the Vancouver Island fires. This will remain the case into Sunday with weak systems arriving from the Northwest, blowing in light to moderate smoke, especially to the North Sound, but also keeping it mostly cloudy and relatively cool with even some scattered showers Saturday and especially Sunday.

Once those systems pass, the upper flow is expected to veer back to the north for Monday into early Tuesday, which could push another round of thicker smoke from the B.C. interior into Western Washington. It's too early to know how dense the smoke will be -- although we'll be hard-pressed to match the smoke levels of earlier this week -- but could degrade air quality once again.

The good news is this somewhat smoky pattern looks pretty short with westerly winds returning Tuesday and remaining in a generally westerly direction through the end of the week (with shower chances developing again). It's probably not a 100 percent region-wide smoke-free pattern, but about the best we can ask for in the current wildfire situations that would at least be tapping into smoke sources from the smaller wildfires in the region.

Long range forecasts at least don't show any hot/easterly wind patterns that would bring back the nearby Eastern Washington smoke and ash through the following week. But we need to bring back our steady, widespread rains to really knock the fires down and get the smoke to go away for good. That typically doesn’t happen until September or even October.

And this autumn, long range forecasters predict warmer and drier than typical conditions will persist in the Pacific Northwest:


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