This is a visualization of a prediction of the movement of smoke in three dimensions across the country over 48 hours, simulating how the weather will impact smoke movement and how smoke will affect visibility, temperature, and wind. The deeper the red, purple, and burgundy, the more concentrated the smoke. Smoke can travel high in the atmosphere all the way from the west coast to the east coast of the U.S., but the health concerns are typically closer to the fire source. The weather model that makes these predictions is the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh, and HRRR-Smoke is part of that model.HRRR-Smoke is part of the HRRR (High Resolution Rapid Refresh, a NOAA real-time 3-km resolution, hourly updated, weather model) and is the first numerical weather prediction model in the U.S. that predicts the movement of smoke in three dimensions across the country over 48 hours, simulating how the weather will impact smoke movement and how smoke will affect visibility, temperature, and wind. HRRR smoke uses satellite observations of fire location and intensity to make its forecasts.
Drought and wildfires have been increasing in the Western U.S. in the late summer, and where there is fire, there is smoke. HRRR-Smoke provides information about the concentration of the smoke in the air and where it comes from in addition to alerting local health and emergency officials to pollutants like ozone and other air quality concerns that come along with thick, concentrated smoky air. Smoke can have adverse effects on residents. Depending on the severity of the smoke, officials may encourage the public or just people with asthma, for example, to stay inside. HRRR Smoke is also used by the aviation industry to identify areas of low visibility due to smoke. Adding HRRR-Smoke chemistry to the weather model also creates more certainty about how the smoke will affect weather. Temperatures are often a few degrees cooler when smoke is in the air.
In late August 2020 there were rampant fires in the Western U.S. and NOAA Research, OAR Communications did a story about the HRRR-Smoke model, which was also picked up by Wired Magazine. The data comes directly from the GSL HRRR page here.
NOAA Research - When smoke is in the air, all eyes turn to this NOAA weather model
Wired - A Beautiful Yet Grim Map Shows How Wildfire Smoke Spreads