We have a fire in Southern California, and everyone gets to share in the fun. Above is a map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Satellite Data Processing and Distribution (original here) showing the extent of smoke from the Station Fire in the mountains north of Los Angeles (and from a series of fires burning in the mountains of British Columbia). Here’s a snippet from the Smoke Text Product (actual name) put out by NOAA’s Satellite Services Division:

Monday, September 1, 2009

THROUGH 0400Z September 2, 2009

Southern Canada/North and Central Plains/Midwest:
Remnant smoke was seen covering a very large portion of southern Canada,
the Northern Plains, most of the Midwest, and parts of the Great Lakes
region. Most of this smoke is remnant from multiple large wildfires
that have been burning in southern British Columbia over the past few
days. Smoke stretched west to east from British Columbia to south Quebec
just north of Vermont, as far north as central Hudson's Bay, and as far
south as the Central Plains where it has been mixing with the dense smoke
from the southern California wildfires.  Several areas of moderately
dense to very dense smoke were present, mostly along and north of the
US/Canadian border with one of the largeest areas of very dense smoke
northwest of Lake Superior and another over southern Alberta/southern

For more on how the smoke situation is evolving across the country, see NOAA’s Air Quality Forecast page, then check the smoke forecasts accessed through the table on the left side of the page. (NOAA’s graphical forecast pages are awesome, but they require either a tutorial or a lot of time just messing around with them — the latter is my method — to discover everything that’s there).



You’ve got to click on the above to appreciate it (don’t worry–I’m not surreptitiously signing you up for a $10,000 Ukrainian stock brokers conference).

That’s what the next few days look like in Red Bluff, near the head of the Sacramento Valley, 170 road miles from climatically bland Berkeley. I’m not sure of the reasons, but the northern end of the valley is one of the hottest places in the state. During one heat spell in the ’90s, Redding (30 miles north of Red Bluff) hit 117.

The week ahead in Red Bluff: temperatures above 110 for the next three days. And lots of smoke from the fires that won’t go out (and hey, how would you like to be on one of the fire crews trying to put the fires out in that weather?). I’m reading Dante’s Inferno right now. He didn’t know the half of it.

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The Smoke of Ought-Eight


Firefighting agencies say there are over 1,000 wildfires burning in California right now. About 800 of them started last Saturday and Sunday as dry thunderstorms swept over the northern two-thirds of the state. We’re a long way from any fires here. There’s a big one burning about 125 miles north of us, near Clear Lake, and two very large blazes in the mountains that rise up from the Big Sur coast–maybe 150 miles south-southwest of here. Still, the smoke is everywhere. Morning, noon, and evening, the sun shines with a filtered light, and the acrid smell of scorched brush hangs in the air. The picture above is out in front of our house at 7 a.m., after the sun had been up nearly two hours. I’ve been here long enough that I can spin graybeard yarns, but still it’s true: There’s been nothing quite like this here–this pall of smoke that just hangs here day after day–in the 30-some years I’ve lived here.

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