Cold Front Brings Smoke From Montana

The National Weather Service
Building a Weather-Ready Nation

A cold front dropping south out of Montana is bringing with it a large plume of smoke from the wildfires in Montana, as seen on visible satellite imagery:

Visible satellite loop from 5am-8am Friday. You can see a plume of smoke barreling down the I-25 corridor with a strong cold front. You can also see a plume of more diffuse smoke in the west and north from the fires in Idaho. There is also a plume of smoke visible in northern Utah that should not impact Wyoming. Above is a static image of the smoke plumes with their sources identified.

The above satellite image is from 10:15 AM, showing the plume of smoke spreading west toward Fremont County. The Webcam image is from WYDOT's Waltman Web Camera at the same time, looking West.
Late morning satellite imagery showed that the smoke plume stopped just west of Hiland, near a local rise in elevation. However, the smoke continued its trek south. 

 

 

 


 

When will the smoke go away?

 

The animated loop above (3 hour intervals from Noon Friday through 9PM Saturday - The time stamp is in the bottom right hand corner in Zulu Time) shows the model depiction of the relative humidity at the surface with the surface winds overlaid. (Remember, that wind barbs show the direction from which the wind is coming) The model depiction clearly shows the cold frontal boundary as it passes through the state as a sharp increase in humidity (green and blue shades) and a shift in wind direction.

Hopefully, some storms will form off of the Bighorns and scour the smoke out of the air. There is also a favorable wind shift overnight when winds become more westerly over Natrona County, which could increase the visibility as well. However...winds quickly shift back to the north around Buffalo, drawing in more smoky air directly from the fires in Montana (mapped on the right).

The loop ends Saturday evening with easterly winds that look to be drawing in cleaner air from the Dakotas.

(Click on the animation above to see a full resolution version)

The two large fires in Montana are depicted above, along with the expected frontal position at 9PM this evening. The white arrows show the expected wind direction.

The models are hinting at an area of possible rain and thundershowers east of the Bighorns, which could cut off some of the smoke source, but the flow around the showers could keep the smoke coming.

 

(Click on the image above to see a full resolution version)

 

The Cold Front will continue to trek south through the night. Some rain and thunderstorms are expected with the front in the northern tier of the state. These storms should help disperse the smoke, but the winds may still bring in more smoke overnight and into tomorrow. There are several opportunities for the smoke to disperse but it is unlikely that it will clear out completely tonight or on Saturday.

For more information on the fires on Montana and Idaho, please visit Inciweb.

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