Weathercatch: ‘Heat dome’ moves on — something to sing about

Weathercatch Photo LogoBy Nic Loyd, WSU meteorologist, and Linda Weiford, WSU News

Two songs best sum up the weather we just left behind – “Heat Wave” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”

During a 10-day period, Washingtonians faced heat advisories, air quality alerts and red flag warnings for fire danger. Smoke from multiple wildfires produced a somber haze that came in tandem with peak temperatures ranging from 97 degrees in Spokane to 105 in Goldendale and Vancouver.

What happened is this: A high-pressure dome locked over the Pacific Northwest resulted in a prolonged heatwave at the same time that winds pumped smoke from more than a million acres of wildfires in British Columbia. Meanwhile, five large wildfires here in Washington distributed even more smoke across the region.

The bubble of high pressure, sometimes called a “heat dome,” acted like a lid by not allowing the hot air and smoke to escape.

Smokey air on the Palouse obscures familiar landmarks
Smokey air on the Palouse obscures familiar landmarks normally seen from the top of Terrell Library Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 in Pullman, Wash.

Last Friday, the high climbed to 97 degrees in the Spokane area, air quality remained in the “unhealthy” category due to smoke and the Washington State Department of Ecology recommended people limit their time outdoors.

Thankfully, conditions changed during the weekend when the high-pressure dome started dissipating and moved off to the east. The mercury slid downward, ending a record streak of days in the 90s. Moreover, for the first time since June 28, it rained.

By Monday, it felt — and looked — as though a lid really had been pulled off. Temperatures ran in the high 70s and southerly winds cleared out most of the hazy air. Skies the color of campfire ash returned to the familiar sapphire blue of August.

Which brings to mind this Beatles’ song: “Good Day Sunshine.”

Weathercatch is a bimonthly column that appears in The Spokesman-Review. Nic Loyd is a meteorologist with Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet. Linda Weiford is a WSU news writer and weather geek.


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