CO smoke plume now visible above Minnesota; Models ramp up rainfall

Smoke now visible overhead above the Twin Cities metro area

“High Park” wildfire smoke likely to increase over Minnesota in the next few days

Thunderstorms growing and moving east in Nebraska toward Minnesota

Multi inch rainfall totals possible next few days

Wireless Emergency Alerts coming soon to smart phones

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A Sikorsky S-64 Aircrane firefighting helicopter drops water on a hotspot burning close to homes near Horsetooth Reservoir June 11, 2012 near Laporte, Colorado. The High Park Fire in Larimer County has burned almost 37,000 acres and damaged or destroyed more than 100 structures. There is no containment of the fire, which is burning in the mountains about 15 miles west of Fort Collins, Co. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

Colorado smoke plume now visible overhead:

Colorado’s massive “High Park” fire continues to belch out thick smoke, and the plume is now visible overhead in much of Minnesota.

Check out this GOES 1km visible satellite shot from Tuesday afternoon. I’ve highlighted in yellow the smoke streak oriented WNW to ESE in central Minnesota. You can see the leading edge was just over the metro around 3pm Tuesday.

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Source: College of DuPage Weather Lab (Near Chicago)

NOAA satellites are tracking the plume as it moves in.

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You can see the smoke from the ground now. Here is a photo I snapped at the weather lab as the leading edge of the smoke plume drifts overhead.

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Smoke aloft over the weather lab Tuesday

Source: Paul Huttner -MPR News

I would estimate the height of the plume is mostly at or above 15,000 feet.

Vivid Sunsets?

With the smoke plume overhead, it’s possible we’ll see some vivid sunsets the next few days in Minnesota. Smoke particles are effective at scattering the blue and violet rays from the visible spectrum while letting the reds in, so it’s possible we’ll see a reddish tint at sunset.

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Source: Cliff Mass Weather Blog

Cliff Mass has a nice explainer here.

It turns out the small particles in the air (small compared to the wavelength of light) can scatter incoming light into various directions and that they scatter short wavelengths (purple and blue) much more than longer wavelengths (orange and red).

There will be plenty of rain around starting tomorrow, so this(Tuesday) evening may be the best time to catch a “vivid sunset.”

Smoke on the increase?

Winds aloft will blow form the west-southwest the next few days. That trajectory should push more of the smoke plume into Minnesota. It may be tough to see with increasing clouds the next few days, but it will be there.

Take a look at the surface winds below from Tuesday afternoon. You can see how the winds fan out from the center of high pressure over Minnesota. Also, look how the winds near Denver will tend to suck any low level smoke from near Denver to the north…then eventually push it toward Minnesota as the high drifts east. It’s possible we could see/smell some ground level smoke in Minnesota within the next few days.

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“June-Soon” ahead: Rains ready to return

Sunday ended our string of dry days in most of Minnesota. MSP Airport picked up a scant .03″ during the 12 day stretch between May 29th and June 9th.

Now it looks like the water faucet is about to gush again.

A slow moving upper low is pulling out of the Rockies and heading for Minnesota the next few days. Several waves of low pressure will slide through between Wednesday and Monday. Each one will bring rain, and the totals could add up to several inches in some areas by Monday.

The first rain chance comes Wednesday, and maybe relatively light.

Right now, it looks like potentially heavier rains come in Thursday night, Saturday and again Father’s Day or Monday.

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Source: Iowa State University

We could see anywhere from 1″ to 3″ in much of central and southern Minnesota by Monday.

Time to clear the downspouts again!

NOAA “WEA’s” on the way:

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Source: NOAA

Here’s an update from NOAA on the (free) Wireless Emergency Alerts coming soon to a smart phone near you.

The text alert service is free and automatic – there’s no need to sign up or download an app. As long as your cell phone is capable of receiving text messages, you’ll get wireless alerts for the most dangerous types of weather from NOAA’s National Weather Service no matter where you are, just as soon as the new service is available in your area.

NOAA’s NWS will broadcast warnings for weather emergencies that are most dangerous to life and property: tornadoes, flash floods, hurricanes, extreme wind, blizzards and ice storms, tsunamis, and dust storms. (Severe thunderstorm warnings will not be part of the initial rollout of broadcast messages because they are so frequent; however, these will continue to be broadcast by NOAA Weather Radio, media outlets and Internet-based services.)

The one big advantage of thee alerts…they are “cell tower specific.” You’ll get warnings as you travel around for the specific area you’re in.


  • Karen Robinson

    Wow. I live about 20 miles from the fire and have been smelling smoke; it was particularly bad this morning. A friend sent me a link to this page. Amazing that you’re seeing the smoke there.