Western wildfire smoke is seen and maybe even smelled in N.H.

  • The Bootleg Fire burns at night in southern Oregon on Saturday. It has already burned more than 476 square miles, an area about the size of Los Angeles. Bootleg Fire Incident Command

Staff and wire reports
Published: 7/20/2021 5:42:43 PM

In what is becoming an unpleasant summer ritual, New Hampshire saw the effects Tuesday of western wildfires, including redder sunrises, hazy skies, and poor air quality.

“A brief break from the fog this morning allowed for us to see the milky sky conditions being caused by the wildfires out west. We are even smelling a bit of the residual smoke traveling across the country,” the Mount Washington Observatory wrote on its Twitter feed.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Department of Environmental Services declared a smoke advisory, warning that the smoke “could cause respiratory health effects for sensetive indiviudals” including children, older adults and those with lun or heart disease.

Sixteen large wildfires were reported in the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday covering a total 570,00 acres, which is equal to the area of all of Merrimack County. The U.S. Forest Service said 7,024 firefighters were fighting them. That doesn’t include many fires burning in western Canada.

Smoke from these fires has blown clear across the continent and contributed to Tuesday’s poor air quality from the Midwest through the Northeast and mid-Atlantic region.

A change in weather patterns may bring relief Wednesday when cool air comes down from eastern Canada, but there’s no relief for the firefighters. High temperatures and lack of rain are expected to continue for the Northwest and Northern Plains.

Meteorologist Julia Ruthford told a briefing in Oregon that a surge of monsoonal moisture from the Southwest increased atmospheric instability Sunday and Monday, creating plumes of smoke topping six miles – so big that the Bootleg Fire fire generated a thunderstorm over itself, hurling lightning bolts and whipping up gusty winds.

Western wildfire smoke affecting New England was once a rarity but in recent years it has become more common as parts of the West transition into permanent drought conditions.

The July heatwave follows an unusual June siege of broiling temperatures in the West, and comes amid worsening drought conditions throughout the region.

Global warming has contributed to the megadrought, making plants more prone to burning. Human-caused climate change a nd decades of fire suppression that increases fuel loads have also worsened fire conditions across the West, scientists say.

Tuesday the two largest fires were burning forests in northeastern California and southern Oregon. A fire near Northern California’s border with Nevada covered about 140 square miles.

In Oregon, the Bootleg Fire covered 240 square miles in the Fremont-Winema National Forest after doubling in size at least twice over the weekend.

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