Smoke from wildfires is blanketing the Sacramento region. What’s the forecast?

Watch the Carr Fire erupt on Thursday from space

This NOAA satellite imagery shows the Carr Fire near Redding. The fire started on July 23, 2018
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This NOAA satellite imagery shows the Carr Fire near Redding. The fire started on July 23, 2018

The Sacramento sky is looking a lot like it does in late October or early November, with the sun muted by a veil of gray haze. But those aren’t clouds stretching across the horizon - the darkness is coming from a thick blanket of smoke caused by fires raging across the northern part of the state.

How long this lasts depends on how long and how large the fires continue to burn, weather experts say.

“That’s the biggest variable (that) we don’t know,” said Tom Dang, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

The deadly Carr Fire in Shasta and Trinity counties and the Mendocino Complex Fire, which consists of the River and Ranch fires in Mendocino and Lake counties, have collectively burned through more that 154,000 acres alone as of Monday, according to Cal Fire.

With the Sacramento area nestled between coastal mountain ranges and the Sierra Nevada, smoke from those fires burning in the top portion of the state is drawn here, Dang said.

The area’s topography “kind of acts as a lid where the smoke can get trapped here in the valley,” he said, adding that hot, stagnant air is “not helping.”

While wind up north closer to the fires would not be good for firefighting efforts, Dang said, more wind here coming off the Delta could help ease smoke conditions in the region.

“We’ve had some minor breezes the last few days but nothing that will clear out the smoke in a meaningful way,” Dang said.

The Delta breeze is expected to pick up over the next few days, Dang said, but he cautioned that unless you live right near the water it won’t have much of an impact.

“It’s not going to be strong by any stretch of the imagination,” Dang said.

Weather forecasts for the week include a much-needed break from the triple-digit heat Sacramento has been experiencing recently with temperatures trending in the mid-90s, which Dang said is beneficial for firefighting efforts.

Smoke from the fires has also had a slight cooling effect on recent temperatures, Dang said, with Sunday’s temperatures about 5 degrees lower than what they would have been otherwise.

“Today, (the smoke) seems to have less of an impact,” Dang said, adding that the sun is much more visible than it was Sunday. “It’s probably more of an air quality impact than a temperature impact (today).”

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