Since it began to burn, the Mosquito Fire has generated massive amounts of smoke and spurred the formation of pyrocumulous clouds.
The fire, which now covers more than 29,500 acres, has spread into El Dorado County from Placer County, where it originated, bringing low-lying smoke with it. Sacramento County issued a smoke advisory on Thursday.
Tim Brown, an atmospheric scientist for the Desert Research Institute in Reno, said that the past week of high temperatures likely made it easier for the fire to spread.
“Strong heat waves like this definitely increase the potential for fire because it's drying out the vegetation,” he said. “Just take what you see in your backyard and compare that to a whole forest that's being dried out that way.”
However, Brown said that cooler temperatures expected to arrive this weekend could make a difference.
“It will help with the atmospheric moisture and bring some moisture back to the vegetation,” he said.
Although smoke from the fire has spread throughout central California, there’s a chance it might partially clear up this weekend. The National Weather Service in Sacramento says that the Delta breeze off the Pacific could push low-lying smoke away from the region and back toward the mountains close to where the fire began.
However, that doesn’t mean the smoke is gone for good. Emily Heller, a meteorologist with the weather service, said that smoke higher up in the atmosphere might linger.
“We could still continue to see some smoke in the air above us,” she said. “That's just based on the fact that that smoke plume has gotten so high in the atmosphere that it's probably going to linger there for a lot longer than the smoke that you can kind of smell closer to the surface.”
Heller said that residents in areas affected by smoke should limit outdoor activity and keep an eye on air quality.
The massive amount of smoke being produced could also affect the state’s already-stressed energy grid.
In a press briefing on Friday, Senior Vice President Mark Rothleder of California ISO, the state’s grid operator, said that a combination of smoke from the Mosquito Fire and clouds from a tropical storm caused a 30% decrease in the state’s solar power generation on Thursday. He said he expects that trend to continue Friday and potentially through the weekend.
With less energy supply in its reserves, Cal ISO has issued a Flex Alert for Friday — the 10th consecutive alert called since the start of the heat wave — asking Californians to conserve energy between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Claire Morgan contributed to this story.
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