Why so smoky this morning?


Satellite picture showing smoke generation

Fire danger across the northern plains is very high to extreme today with the very strong winds, warm temperatures, and low humidities today, but it was actually fires from yesterday which resulted in waking up to the smoky skies this morning.   Typically this time of year, a large number of fires are set intentionally to burn fields and pasture land across portions of the plains.  Monday was one such day, with many dozen fires set across portions of Kansas, Oklahoma, and southeast Nebraska.  Since these fires represent locally "warm" spots, they are detectable by certain infrared satellite channels, and in the image above, are denoted by the numerous black and gray "dots" within the circled area.  As more stable nighttime conditions set in, the smoke from these fires becomes trapped below the nighttime temperature inversion (a warming of temperatures with height which acts as a "lid" on smoke dispersion).  The very strong south winds which developed overnight provided an effective transport mechanism to move the smoke northward into our region.   The visibility (and smell) should improve through the morning and early afternoon as the daytime heating allows a deeper mixing of the airmass, but for those with breathing difficulties, you might consider limiting outdoor time at least through the morning.

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