Why is the sky so smoky in the West? When will the air be clean?


The West sits under a thick blanket of smoke.

States like Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada and Montana – all have smoky skies this week thanks to dozens of wildfires burning across the West, including wildfires major in Oregon and California.

The “main culprits” of smoke in Utah, according to the National Weather Service of Salt Lake City, are the Bootleg Fire in Oregon, which has burned more than 153,535 acres since it started on Friday, and the Beckwourth Complex fires. in northern California. along the Nevada border, which burned more than 89,748 acres Monday morning. Other fires that burn in Idaho can also contribute.

The Salt Lake City National Weather Service warned on Saturday that the smoke could likely worsen as plumes continue to sweep over Utah and its neighboring states.

On Tuesday afternoon, humidity and potential thunderstorms – along with a change in weather conditions – could help clear the smoke in Utah, the National Weather Service of Salt Lake City. tweeted.

Utah Governor Spencer Cox on Twitter referred to the National Weather Service posts on Saturday, saying that “almost all of the smoke you see comes from large fires in California and Oregon. Hopefully things clear up later this week.

As of Monday morning, air quality in seven Utah counties – Carbon, Davis, Salt Lake, Tooele, Utah, Weber and Box Elder – remained classified as “unhealthy for sensitive groups” until Wednesday, according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Can masks help protect against smoke?

Smoke and ash from forest fires can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and cause coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. If you are at greater risk for adverse health effects – perhaps if you have heart or lung disease – the best way to protect yourself is to stay indoors or limit your time to the hospital. outdoors when there is smoke in the air, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Regular masks are not effective against smoke, warns the EPA. However, N95 or P100 respirators can help protect against smoke and ash. Federal authorities recommend them for people who must stay outside for long periods in smoky air or those who experience health effects from the smoky environment.

Smoke fills the Salt Lake Valley on Monday, July 12, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Heat wave

The smoke comes as firefighters in the West battle fires in extreme temperatures as another heat wave sweeps through the region – and the West suffers one of the worst droughts in modern history. The latest heat wave has strained power grids as California regulators have asked consumers to conserve their electricity use to avoid blackouts, the Associated Press reported.

Smoke can help suppress high temperatures, the National Weather Service tweeted, “like a thin layer of cirrus clouds.” Compared to preliminary observations and forecast this weekend, weather officials said it appeared temperatures in northern Utah were slightly cooler – about 2 degrees to 5 degrees cooler – than expected. .

Yet another temperature record fell in Salt Lake City on Sunday, when thermometers recorded 104 degrees, according to Salt Lake City’s National Weather Service. This broke a previous daily high of 103 degrees in 2012.

St. George in southern Utah hit 117 degrees on Saturday, which would tie the all-time record for the entire state of Utah. Salt Lake City’s National Weather Service has ruled the record “unofficial” for now, saying it requires further investigation of the data before declaring it the new all-time state record.

Nationally, heatwaves pushed last month to No. 1 on the list of the hottest June on record in the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Eight states – Arizona, California, Idaho, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Utah – experienced their hottest June on record. Six other states – Connecticut, Maine, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming – recorded their second warmest June.

Smoke fills the Salt Lake Valley on Monday, July 12, 2021.

Smoke fills the Salt Lake Valley on Monday, July 12, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News


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