Clear blue skies in Chicago but smoke and haze still a threat from fires

Weather Blog

Dramatically clearer blue skies have offered Chicago area residents us such a beautiful view of the sky today, particularly in areas along and close to Lake Michigan where the day’s stabilizing “NE” winds have swept skies clear of the cumulus clouds evident west of the city. Northwest winds aloft have brought Canadian air free of the Western smoke to the area.

Model smoke forecasts keep Chicago area skies smoke-free Saturday. But a return to hazier, smoky skies is evident from model projection of the smoke’s resurgence are clear as we move into Sunday morning.

This animated “true color” GOES-16 weather satellite imagery allows us follow the hazy smoke plume across the country. It reaches a swath of the Midwest–but to the south and west of Chicago.

First a short-range forecast into Saturday for North America off the Weather Service’s RAP model:

Here’s a longer range model smoke forecast which extends through daybreak Sunday and shows the smoke about to re-enter Chicago area airspace:

“Firenado”

The horrific fires of recent years, most recently those burning across the West and those so much in the news in Australia during its catastophic fire season of the past year, have brought the “firenado” or “fire whirl” phenomenon to our attention time and again. These are rotating funnels of flame produced as air rises over intensely hot blaze. The ascending air is replaced by an inward rush of air on which the Coriolis force–produced by the rotation of Earth on its axis–goes to work producing rotation in the hot column of rising air.

As NBC Los Angeles meteorologist Anothony Yanez demonstrated in this video he posted just last evening, producing miniature “firenadoes” can be done in a controlled environment.

Yanez writes,

Here is how a firewhirl or firenado is made. Every fire makes its own wind or own weather. As fires compete for oxygen a whirl forms in the center. This demonstration shows how easy it is to make a firenado and how common they are. Most are hidden by smoke.

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