Smoky Sunrise/Sunset

By now you may have heard of the California wildfires. There are also fires in parts of Canada now, as well. These wildfires have been affecting Iowa for a few days now.

A tweet from Friday, August 10, 2018:

A tweet from Saturday, August 11, 2018:

From Sunday, August 12, 2018:


What exactly about the wildfire smoke that causes our sunrises to look… a little more fiery? It’s something called “Rayleigh scattering”.

The smoke particles scatter certain wavelengths of light when the light passes through the smoke. The wavelengths that pass through correspond with warmer colors like red and orange.

Dubuque sunset on Sunday August 12, 2018


Viewer submitted sunset enhanced by smoke from wildfires


This effect is enhanced when the sun is lower in the sky – sunrise and sunset.

Smoke may cause issues for sensitive groups or some of those with asthma.

For more information on the current air quality in Iowa, click here.


Posted under Fire

This post was written by Rachael Peart on August 13, 2018

Smoke and Fog

The clouds over Iowa may pop a stray shower or storm this afternoon. The smoke to our west is not moving much. The smoke in Minnesota is moving south. Expect a smoky sky through the weekend. Smoke is from wildfires in western Canada.

Areas of fog this morning in eastern Iowa.


Posted under Fire, Fog, GOES

This post was written by Schnack on August 10, 2018

Smoke in the Sky

Here is a look at the sunset today in Waterloo. There was a lot of smoke in the air.

Credit: Kari

The smoke comes from the wild fires in the west part of the US and Canada. The map below shows where all the wildfires are today.

The satellite image shows how widespread the smoke was this afternoon. Smoke is all the areas with the red shading.


Posted under Fire

This post was written by Schnack on August 9, 2018

Smoke on Tuesday

Wildfires in Colorado are producing a lot of smoke. Some of that smoke will make it to Iowa in the upper levels of the atmosphere Tuesday.


Posted under Fire

This post was written by Schnack on July 2, 2018


In the panhandle of Texas, about 30 miles southeast of Amarillo, was a large wildfire Friday. The Texas Forest Service said about 34,000 acres were burning. The image below shows where the fire was through a channel on the GOES16. It shows the “hot spot”. The red spot on the map is the wildfire.

This next image shows the wildfire and now a severe thunderstorm to the east/northeast of the fire. The fire was so intense, and with just the right conditions, it produced a severe storm.

This next image shows the same area. This is a different channel on the GOES16 than the images above. The fire shows up as a black color. The severe thunderstorm is again to the east/northeast. This image also shows all of the lightning strikes in this storm.

Here is a time-lapse of the smoke from the fire and the storm developing overhead.


Thunderstorm clouds are call cumulonimbus clouds. This thunderstorm cloud is called pyrocumulonimbus. I have also heard it called a fire cloud. In Latin pyro means “fire” and cumulus means “heap or pile”. Pyrocumulus clouds can form over large wild fires and if intense enough can develop into a thunderstorm getting the name pyrocumulonimbus.

The intense heat from the fire produces rapidly rising air. This rising air pulls in cooler air from outside. It cools and condenses as it rises. The pressure lowers as you go up in the atmosphere. If the air rises fast enough you can get a thunderstorm like the one that occurred on Friday. These thunderstorms could be dangerous because the lightning it produces could spark another wildfire. In addition to that,  as the storm weakens the downdraft could spread the flames.




Posted under Fire, GOES

This post was written by Schnack on May 11, 2018

Fire seen from GOES16

There was a brush fire near Prairieburg earlier this afternoon. The GOES image shows the hot spot from the fire. The pink area in the green outline is where the fire was. Click here to get more information about the fire.

The image below shows two other fires flare up shortly after the image above.

Here is another look at the three fires using a different channel of the satellite. The image is also zoomed in with counties outline to get a better idea of the fire locations.

The map below shows another hot spot (brush fire) SW of Fairfax. The black area in the red outline is the fire. Notice the gusty northwest wind from eastern Iowa Airport in the red circle. The numbers plotted on the map at the airport represent the temperature (74) and dew point (35). The dew point is very low and that tells us the air is very dry. Elevated fire danger has been a concern all day with wind gusts of 40-45 mph and a lot of dry grass still.

In addition to the satellite the dual pol radar


Posted under Fire, GOES

This post was written by Schnack on April 27, 2018

The Fire Continues to Burn

The fire, north of Los Angeles, continues to burn with very little containment. Here is a look at the smoke viewed from the International Space Station. Notice how close it is to the city of Los Angeles.

The smoke is forecast to move over the Pacific and then north along the coast of California and Oregon.


Posted under Fire

This post was written by Schnack on December 7, 2017

Southern California Fire

There is a large fire in southern California, just north of Los Angeles. The satellite shows the smoke produced by the fire being pushed west by the Santa Ana Winds.


Posted under Fire

This post was written by Schnack on December 6, 2017

Still Smoking in California

The satellite image shows the smoke from wildfires still burning in northern California this afternoon.

Click here to see the loop.


Posted under Fire

This post was written by Schnack on November 1, 2017

Temperatures, Drought Improvement and Elevated Fire Danger


Here is a look at where the weather instruments are located at the Waterloo Airport.

Low temperatures this morning were mainly in the upper 30s to the mid 40s across eastern Iowa and Black Hawk County. The exception was the Waterloo Airport reported a low of 34 degrees.

There are other weather instruments that are available to us in Waterloo and Cedar Falls area. The map below shows those weather stations reported low temperatures between 38-44. These temperatures are more similar to other reports surrounding Black Hawk County. There are certain nights the temperature at the Waterloo airport is much colder than everywhere surrounding it and this morning was one of those times.


The latest Drought Monitor was released this morning and the conditions continue to improve.

The first map below is the Drought Monitor showing a small portion of Iowa now in drought conditions.

The map below shows the Drought Monitor over the amount of rainfall for the month of October. Notice the lowest rain amounts are where we have some dry conditions still.


There was a moderate to high grassland fire danger today, and will be again Friday, across parts of northern Iowa. Winds are forecast to be stronger Friday from the south. Winds will increase in speed Friday night and remain windy Saturday. The rain chance doesn’t move into the eastern part of the state until the afternoon and evening. Use extra caution in the fields Friday and Saturday.

The cropland fire danger index is higher and more widespread today and is expected to be that way for Friday  Saturday until rain Saturday. Please use caution in the fields for the next 48 hours.


National High and Low Temperature  Thursday, October 19, 2017

99 at El Centro NAS, CA
99 at Ocotillo Wells, CA

11 at Bodie State Park, CA


Posted under Drought, Fall Colors, Fire, Temperatures

This post was written by Schnack on October 19, 2017