Wildfires, poor air quality to continue as dangerous heat threatens western US

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Much of the western United States is in the midst of an extended period of poor air quality, increasing drought conditions and abundant wildfire activity — all of which can be at least partially blamed on the recent record-breaking heat.

“As an area of high pressure builds in the West this weekend and into next week, heat will build as well,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Ryan Adamson. “This strong area of high pressure will promote mostly dry weather as well.”

In downtown Los Angeles, August high temperatures rarely stray out of the mid-80s. On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, however, the mercury soared into the 90s.

“Widespread temperatures over 100 are likely to continue in the valleys of California and move up into southern Oregon,” said Adamson.

Since average high temperatures usually fall through September, these conditions will become especially unusual for this time of year.

“By early next week, as the ridge builds northward, temperatures may approach 100 degrees as far north as Portland,” Adamson said. There, Labor Day forecasts usually fall closer to 80 F.

This weather pattern will heighten several other heat-related threats as well.

In the Northwest, wildfire smoke inundating the region from both local fires and those in western Canada have resulted in several periods of dangerously poor air quality.

Unfortunately, there is little one can do to deter wildfires.

“Spotty storms in the Rockies and Sierra will bring little rain and lightning could spark new wildfires,” Adamson said.

Residents and tourists in the western U.S. can expect to continue dealing with extreme heat and its impacts through at least the middle of next week.