On this cool, cloudy morning along the Colorado Front Range, geese and ducks streaming over the farm, a faint scent of wood smoke hung in the air. While this natural smell is appealing to most humans, its current presence in the Southeastern U.S. is far from welcome.
Following a prolonged drought, wildfires have erupted across the Blue Ridge Mountains, from eastern Tennessee through southwestern North Carolina to north Georgia and the ridges of northwestern South Carolina. Fueled by shifting winds and dry timber, the fires have spread plumes of smoke throughout the region, creating unhealthy air in many urban centers, especially those in river valleys.
While drought has been severe in the Tennessee-North Carolina-Georgia Tristate, low levels of precipitation have plagued much of the country as domes of high pressure have deflected Pacific storms across Canada and prevented Gulf moisture from moving northward. Ski season has been delayed in the West (except at high elevation resorts with snow-making equipment) and dry conditions in the foothills and on the plains have set the stage for western fires as well. What we need are a few deep atmospheric troughs to displace the ridge of heat and drought; the first blast of near-winter weather is expected in Colorado by the end of the week.