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NASA Images Show Wildfire Smoke Over Seattle, Portland, Oregon / Washington Coast

Published 10/11/22 at 5:24 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

NASA Images Show Wildfire Smoke Over Seattle, Portland, Oregon / Washington Coast

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(Cannon Beach, Oregon) – Not unlike the last week or so, chunks of the Oregon coast and Washington coast were dealing with some heavy smoke haze from wildfires around the Pacific Northwest about a month ago. It made life more uncomfortable in places like the Willamette Valley and the Seattle / I-5 corridor. Some 100 wildfires burned in the U.S. this past summer (which is technically not quite over with here), and a good number of them were in this region. Oregon's Cedar Creek fire and Washington's Bolt Creek fire together ate up some 130,000 acres – and they're still going. (Photo NASA: a detail from the whole image)

It's gnarly enough when you have to breathe it, but seeing it from space adds a whole new chill to the concept. NASA Earth's MODIS and VIIRS instruments captured some of that wispy drama from above the atmosphere, and these dramatic photos of the plumes heading across the Oregon coastline and Washington coast were just released by NASA.

They show Seattle and the Puget Sound in the sights of the Bolt Creek blaze, but largely missing the Washington coast.


The Cedar Creek fire is the monster in this photo, taken September 10. It reaches across the Cascades, rounding one section of the mountains to some degree, where it thins out a little, and then the two streams appear to rejoin on the west side and make a darker, thicker spot – all looking a little like foam in your espresso.

The bottom edge of the smoky mass just misses Florence, and you can see Winchester Bay and Coos Bay on the south Oregon coast as the two snakelike indentations in the satellite shot.

On the northern Oregon coast, Tillamook Bay is the most prominent feature this far up, where the thickest smoke was at this time, getting even thicker around Warrenton and Astoria.

Oregon detail

Long Beach on the south Washington coast is also getting some of the worst of it on this date, with the last of it dissipating around Grays Harbor, Westport and Aberdeen.

The color NASA image comes from the Terra satellite, equipped with Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). It was taken around 11 a.m. that day.

The black and white image was shot at night at 3 a.m. It was just before the Bolt Creek fire erupted, so it's noticeably missing. This one was snapped by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi-NPP. The striking thing here is seeing the fires glow at night: it adds a bit more fright to the scene.

“Smoke and the fires were visible via the instrument’s day-night band, which measures nighttime light emissions and reflections,” NASA said. “In this case, some of the smoke plumes reflected light from the full Moon.”

On the ground, on that very day, Oregon Coast Beach Connection had eyes in Astoria. Thanks to Angi Wildt of Angi D Wildt Gallery, there was this glimpse of the bridge and the very haze that had been captured hundreds of miles above earlier in the day.

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