MISSOULA — Smoke is still blanketing Western Montana valley this afternoon.
Air quality remains in the moderate to unhealthy category and will likely continue to hold steadily at these levels through Thursday night.
You may have noticed a bit more sunshine coming through the smoke during the day, but also notice visibility is still limited horizontally.
The smoke has been a bit shallower these last few days (vertically), so sunshine/warmth is making it to the tops of mountains.
Valleys remain cooler since the radiation/warmth can’t fully penetrate the smoke layer.
This means there are some mountain tops that are warmer than valley floors, and we are all very familiar with inversions in Western Montana.
Inversions have set up across most our valleys, and this keeps conditions very stagnant and allows smoke to continue to sit in valley floors.
This will likely be the trend into Friday afternoon before changes arrive.
By Friday evening, a system out of our northwest approaches.
This area of low pressure will bring in much cooler and wetter conditions and help drive the smoke out of our area.
Fresh, non-smoky air from the northwest will funnel in, and we are looking at rain, cooler weather, and better air quality for the weekend.
By Monday rain moves out and sunshine returns to the forecast.
The extent of smoke returning is still unknown. We will have to see what the rain does to help wildfires in the Pacific Northwest this weekend.