ROANOKE, Va. – So far this summer, we’ve had two instances when the air quality got into a Code Red or ‘Unhealthy’ category. It happened once in June, and it happened again on Monday, July 17.
Prior to that, the last time it got that bad was in the early 2000s.
In addition to that, Lynchburg has received more than three months’ worth of rain within the past week.
This can all be traced back to global weather patterns. One that we talk about often is the El Niño. This refers to warmer waters off the coast of Peru.
Why would we care about that? Let’s explain.
Smoke In Our Sky
Traditionally, during an El Niño phase, you get extreme heat in the western U.S. and in western Canada. For instance, Phoenix is about to get its 19th consecutive day of 110°+ heat. That’s record-breaking for them.
Extreme heat is helping fuel drought in Canada along with hundreds of wildfires.
As of this posting, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center Inc. is reporting more than 900 wildfires in the country.
Nearly two-thirds of those are out of control, and nearly half of them are ongoing in British Columbia alone.
In a traditional El Niño setup, the Western U.S. bakes under high pressure while low pressure resides over the Eastern U.S. That puts Southwest and Central Virginia under a northwest flow. That’s what brings the smoke into our area.
With fires still burning out of control, we’re likely to see more smoky episodes until the snowy season north of the border.
That same northwest flow we wrote about two sentences ago is strongest over the Nation’s midsection, meaning that storm clusters ride in from the west more frequently.
That will happen Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. After that, that wind field will shift farther north, leaving us mostly dry into the upcoming weekend.