How does this year’s smoke compare to previous summers?

SPOKANE, Wash. — It has been a smoky few days in the Inland Northwest, but how does this summer compare to previous years?

The Washington Department of Ecology says that while the summer isn’t quite over, it is shaping up to be an average to below-average year of wildfire smoke.

Central and Eastern Washington have experienced fewer smoky days than normal so far, the lowest since 2019. This can be attributed to a few things.

Smoke Data

The first is a late start to fire season. The region saw several rainy May days and a wet start to summer.

The DOE also says we can point to our largest wildfires, which compared to previous years, “didn’t get too bad.”

All of that said, the amount of unhealthy smoke days in the region is rising long-term. An average or slightly below-average year for smoke in the past decade would have been almost unthinkable in the 1990s and 2000s.

The average number of unhealthy smoke days in Spokane since 2018 is now around seven. The average for the past decade is six. An unhealthy smoke day means 24 hours of orange or higher on the Air Quality Index.

Smoke Day Totals for spokane, unhealthy for 24 hours

Source: Spokane Clean Air Agency

Wildfire smoke causes numerous health problems and was linked to developing lung cancer in people with certain genes.

Wildfire season is not over yet, but the weather is starting to turn with autumn transitioning in.

The Inland Northwest is forecasted to see some days in the next few weeks with highs in 60s.