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  • Dylan Anderson

Smoke from Canadian fires looks to linger in the Yampa Valley to start week

Wind looks to shift on Tuesday, likely pushing smoke out of the valley.

Smoke in Yampa Valley
The Flat Tops disappeared behind smoke lingering in the Yampa Valley on Sunday evening. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)

Smoke lingering throughout the Yampa Valley comes from about a dozen different wildfires burning in Canada and will likely continue to start the week.

Megan Sanders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said most of the fires bringing smoke to the valley are in Alberta and has reduced visibility across much of the Western Slope in recent days.

“It hasn’t been too bad, just kind of hazy,” Sanders said.

The weather pattern looks to shift to coming from the southwest as early as Tuesday though, which should improve smoke impacts, Sanders said. According to Purple Air, air quality in Steamboat Springs has often been in the 51-100 range, which is considered acceptable though there may be health risks if exposed for more than 24 hours, especially to those who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.

Mike Weissbluth, a local meteorologist who runs the forecasting website, said he recently added air quality information from Purple Air and smoke model forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to his website. The latter of those doesn’t actually show much smoke coming into Colorado.

“It’s a bummer to have the haze in the area so soon,” Weissbluth said. “This has really been around for a couple of days and we’re in a stagnant upper air pattern and it could be that the smoke is sort of being recirculated even though no more new sources are coming in.”

Early Monday, downtown Steamboat Springs was measuring air quality at 56 parts per million, but other sensors around the county were seeing worse, but still acceptable air quality. A reading near Thunderhead Lodge at Steamboat Resort was at 76, one near Pearl Lake in North Routt was at 81, and another south of Stagecoach Reservoir was at 67. Impacts are worse along the Front Range with some readings as high as 150 south of the Denver metro area.

Weissbluth said the smoke would likely linger on Monday before winds shift to the west and then southwest by Tuesday. As the pattern shifts, Weissbluth said he expects some rain on Monday afternoon, followed by better chances on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon.

“When it changes the flow to be from the southwest that’s going to draw moisture up,” Weissbluth said.

The afternoon storms come as things heat up through the day, creating energy in the atmosphere that peaks in the afternoon and often leads to rain. Sanders referred to this as “diurnal heating,” and noted that once the sun starts to set the chances for these storms diminish.

Drier air looks to move over the valley for the latter half of the week, though afternoon storms are still possible. Weissbluth said this will come with an increase in temperature to the low to mid-70s, which is about five degrees above average for late May.

“Dry air from the southwest gets brought overhead by Thursday,” Weissbluth said. “Right now, it does look like the storms will clear on Thursday and the temperatures will increase.”


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