Mendocino and Humboldt County residents have gazed upward over the last 24 hours as their sky has taken on the appearance of the apocalypse glowing with hues of red, orange, and yellow. We spoke to National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Tonkin about the atmospheric factors that have converged to create this phenomenon.
First, Tonkin emphasized the sheer magnitude of fire activity currently occurring in the region, including the August Complex, Red Salmon Complex, Willits’s Oak Fire, and fires in Southern Oregon.
Tonkin explained that the smoke output of these fires dramatically increased over the last 48 hours as temperatures peaked, relative humidity decreased, and the wind speeds picked up.
This increase in smoke output and shift in winds coming from the Northeast has created the perfect conditions for the Mendocino and Humboldt skies to be inundated with wildfire smoke, Tonkin said.
Tonkin did recognize that the fires emitting the smoke now blanketing the region have been burning for many weeks. He said it was the directional shift of those winds that led to the smoke dispersing over Humboldt and Mendocino Counties.
Tonkin reassured the community that though the region has gone through a rough couple days with smoke, heat, low humidity, the forecast calls for relative humidity improvement, lower temperatures, and a shift in the wind blowing westward.
The National Weather Service encourages all residents to stay indoors because “[w]ildfire smoke can harm you in multiple ways. Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases.”