PNW smoke forecast?
August 7, 2017 8:19 AM   Subscribe

Should we cancel our outdoor activity-based trip to the PNW next week?

We're scheduled to depart Saturday for a week of our favorite outdoor activity, in the PNW. I have asthma.

I've lived in coastal Southern California and have experienced wind-driven smoke / fine particulate matter; I know how it feels to (not) breathe. However, in SoCal, the winds that send smoke to the coast are the exception rather than the rule of weather patterns. As a result, smoke was bad for a few days at most. If this vacation was scheduled for SoCal and there were fires, I'd probably still go.

I don't know PNW weather patterns. Is west->east usually true for the PNW? Or do you expect that the smoke will persist over the coast for several weeks? We're leaning towards paying the fees on Air Canada to reschedule, but a tiny voice in the back of my mind says there's no way the smoke will be weeks in duration, it'll be fine ...

Speculation is welcome. I'm looking for input and experience from many sources on what to expect.
posted by Dashy to Travel & Transportation around British Columbia (8 answers total)
Over the coast? I think you'll be fine: Air Now
West -> East is usually true, yes.
posted by cyclicker at 8:26 AM on August 7, 2017

I'm not sure how long it will last but I'm just above there on Vancouver Island and my town has been full of haze for the last four days. Talking online people are being affected by it all over the lower half of BC. If the smoke there is like here I'd be careful as I haven't had asthma since a child but this haze (not the worst since I can't smell it) has set it off and I wake up with scratchy throat and a cough.
posted by kanata at 8:33 AM on August 7, 2017

Specifically, we're looking at Squamish / Howe Sound Canada
posted by Dashy at 8:41 AM on August 7, 2017

The AirNow forecast only covers today and tomorrow. The long-range forecast models show a significant change in weather patterns over the PNW by next week. It looks like a pattern that should be less much conducive to the smoke affecting coastal areas. The pattern change may also cause significant rainfall to help put out the fires, though obviously that's not ideal for your vacation. Anyway, I am an air pollution meteorologist, and based on what I am seeing I would not cancel a trip for next week. No guarantees, though.
posted by jkent at 9:14 AM on August 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

The current haze on the North Shore is better than a few days ago, but visibility is still poor, and everything still has an orange tint. The forecasts claim it'll get worse midweek, and then some showers at the end of the week will make it 'better'.
Here's the current air quality for metro vancouver: GIS - Air Map
This one's for the province: Current PM2.5 Data
posted by cfraenkel at 9:33 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Here is what CBC's forecaster says: link

Also here is a link for air quality.
posted by sadtomato at 1:01 PM on August 7, 2017

If you can afford it, make sure that your inhaler medicine is within expiry date - and if you don't have one, it's a easy get for a prescription.

Environment Canada has been cagey - and basically admitting that they can't predict past a day or or two. Today was predicted as the last day of smoke in the lower mainland (an hour or two South of Squamish) and looking out the window, there's about 50% blue and the smoke is less dense although I still can't see the North Shore from Kits.

Two things going on right now, smoke from the wildfires and a heat wave. In most parts around here, the smoke is limiting daytime high temperatures which hugely ameliorates the heat wave, but smoke.

Regardless, high elevation = better conditions.

However, there's supposed to be a break in the high pressure ridge that's been squatting here sometime this upcoming Sat/Sun/Mon (allowing cooler Pacific air to move inland, rather than squeezing hot interior air [and smoke] down towards the coast). Both smoke and heat wave should go away.

Very similar situation to the one California has been under the past handful of years; inland/coastal high pressure ridge preventing Pacific air from moving inland. In the PNW, Pacific air moving inland is the norm this time of year, but yeah ACC. We've had more of these stubborn bastard high pressure ridges the last decade than the previous 20+ years I've lived around here.

Anecdotally, physical discomfort from the smoke peaked last Thursday/Friday and has been improving since. Clinically, it's more of a chronic exposure thing compounded by pollen (virtually no precipitation since June, and that just concentrated the pollen to ground level).
posted by porpoise at 6:58 PM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hope that you kept your travel plans - everything (except the pollen) has cleared up; the high pressure ridge started breaking up on Friday evening, Saturday was awesome typical Vancouver weather for August (leading to serious traffic problems downtown/Lions Gate bridge).

Reasonable amount of rain came Sat night and scrubbed the air adequately. I want more, though.

Sunday was perfect (for me) weather (high in the low 20s but dropping to 16/17 overnight, and early in the day), and the rest of the week looks like regular late-Summer weather for Vanc (a little cooler, but sunny and dry, highs aren't expected to break mid-20s).
posted by porpoise at 12:21 AM on August 14, 2017

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