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Smokey Skies

Smokey Skies from Aspen Mountain

Persistent smoke the past few days isn’t just from local fires. Due to an extremely unusual configuration of the jet stream, much of the West is being blanketed in smoke from wildfires raging in California.


The current NOAA smoke forecast shows how wide-ranging the smoke from these wildfires truly is. Currently, there are two wildfires over 100,000 acres in northern California (the Carr Fire and Mendocino Complex). Another near Yosemite, the Ferguson Fire, is over 60,000 acres. To put that in perspective, Colorado has only had three fires over 100,000 acres in the past 60 years, which includes this year's Spring Creek fire at 108,000 acres. The satellite image below gives some context to how large these fires are.

 


But the reason Colorado is getting blasted with smoke from almost 1,000 miles away is about more than just large wildfires. The jet stream is currently in a very unusual position, typically only seen in the winter. The two images below from www.ventusky.com show the current configuration of the jet stream. Typically during the summer months, this strong air current is north of the United States. Right now, scientists are unsure of what is causing this unusual configuration, but it has already led to extreme and damaging weather across the United States.