Wildfire smoke continues to fuzz West Michigan skies

Weather News

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Wildfires continue to rage across Canada, sending massive plumes of smoke into the atmosphere and across West Michigan skies.

Most of the smoke headed into our state is from the province of Ontario, which is experiencing a more active fire season than usual.

Fires (red) and smoke (gray).

So far this year, Ontario has reported 724 fires compared to 414 last year. The 10-year average for the province is 458 fires, according to Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

As of Monday, many of these fires were completely out of control and conditions remained dry in the region.

Red Lake Fire, Courtesy of Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Smoke has been picked up by an upper-level weather pattern and for the past couple of days has traveled over West Michigan. At the Gerald R. Ford International Airport near Grand Rapids, the smoke was observed to be traveling at about 11,000 feet above ground level.

The smoke has made for some hazy skies during the day and burning sunrises and sunsets around twilight.

Smoky skies and sun over West Michigan by John Dimond

In fact, the smoke was so prominent over West Michigan on Sunday that it filtered our direct sunlight by almost 10%. Instead of receiving a “100% possible sunshine” on our completely sunny day, the sensors registered only 91% possible sunshine.

Smoke as seen by MODIS satellite above the Great Lakes on Sunday, July 18.

Smoke will continue to obscure our skies Monday and Tuesday, with some improvement Wednesday. A cold front is expected to drop down from the north through Tuesday, helping to temporarily thicken the smoke during the day before kicking out of our region Wednesday.

Smoke should be lighter around 7 a.m. Tuesday.

The approaching cold front will thicken the smoke north of Grand Rapids first, with peak concentration around sunset.

Smoke will be thickest over I-94 overnight into Wednesday morning.

With so many wildfires in Canada and out West this year, there is a good chance West Michigan will see another round of smoky skies before the summer season is done.

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