The United States sees on average 70,000 wildfires a year. The vast majority of those happen in the western United States. Much of that smoke impacts us here in North Dakota.

Smoke from wildfires in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho has made its way into North Dakota.
And based on how our jet stream flows, North Dakota is often right in line to be smoked out.

Once smoke rises from a fire, It gets picked up by the upper atmospheric wind and can get transferred thousands of miles away.

Upper air smoke from fires that originated in the western US.

It can be brought to the surface in a number of different ways including warm and cold fronts, wind, and temperature differences with height.

But have you ever noticed that it can be smokier in the morning? If the smoke is settled to the surface overnight, it can become trapped in the morning hours. That’s because of what’s called a temperature inversion. The earth cools at the surface overnight faster than the air above it. That creates a warm layer that acts as a lid to keep the smoke from escaping.

National Weather Service Meteorologist, James Telken monitors the temperature inversion effect, “It’s actually similar to smog in the big cities. You get that strong temperature inversion and there’s nowhere for it to go so it gets stuck near the surface and throughout the day as the lower atmosphere warms up, you know the surface temperatures, that inversion kind of dissipates and it’ll allow the smoke to possibly mix out of the area.”

Smoke can make even the healthiest person feel sick. A scratchy throat, cough, and itchy eyes are among some of the impacts on the body.