Smoke Plume, April 12, 2012

County Line Wildfire Smoke Plume
Angie Enyedi, NWS Jacksonville

Northeast Florida and southeast Georgia started fire weather season with a bang on Aprill 5th, when a lightning strike started a fire in extreme northwest Baker county, named the County Line wildfire. For the past week, the fire grew explosively given dry surface fuels and breezy winds.  Unfortunately, significant rainfall will be held at bay for the next week. Not only will the County Line fire continue to burn, but conditions will remain favorable for additional fire growth across the region.  If you suspect an uncontrolled blaze, please call your local 911 dispatch center soon as possible.

 Not only are the fires themselves a hazard, but so is the resultant smoke.  Much of the first coast was impacted by the County Line wildfire smoke plume over the past week, yet today we woke up to very little smoke across the area, less the faint smell of it in the air.  Meanwhile, interests in the Suwannee River Valley awoke to more smoke in the area today. So what happened?

Smoke plume trajectories, or the path the smoke plume tracks in the atmosphere, are influenced by wind flow.  Below is a visible satellite image taken this evening around 5 pm. The County Line wildfire location is indicated by the star, and its smoke plume is surrounded by the thin yellow line in the left-most image below. Note how far the smoke plume traveled!  All the way toward the southeast Gulf of Mexico!  On the right side of the picture below is an image of low level winds that coincide with the path of the smoke plume over the eastern Gulf of Mexico.


For the rest of the night, the low level winds between 1000mb and 850 mb (or about ground level to around 5,000 ft above ground level) will become more easterly around midnight, which is shown in the left-most image in the graphic below. This will shift the smoke plume to the west over the eastern Florida panhandle from sunset through midnight.

The image on the right in the graphic below shows low level winds becoming light and southerly by 8 am tomorrow morning. The weakeing of the winds will allow the smoke plume to spread out while still drifting northward toward Valdosta and Homerville. 

To stay abreast of the latest smoke and fire weather forecasts, check out the National Weather Service web page including the Graphicasts and detailed local forecast information.

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