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Photo via Cliff Mass Weather Blog/air patterns over Washington
Photo via Cliff Mass Weather Blog/air patterns over Washington

The other night, as I was lying in bed with my window open I was like, “What is that smell?” Growing up in Iowa, I couldn’t quite place it…it wasn’t totally manure, nor was it totally a processing mill, both of which, if you’ve ever driven through the Midwest, permeate the air.

In other words, I was wondering where my damn evergreen-tree-wood-burning-fireplace brisk air went.

Apparently, I was not alone. According to the Cliff Mass Weather Blog, something was definitely in the air, even spurring local alt-weeklies, including The Stranger, to take on the stench. According to Mass, “The meteorology was favorable in many ways. With high pressure building over the region, a very strong low-level inversion (temperature warming with height) developed over Puget Sound…There was a shallow cool layer 100-200 meters thick which contained the fog and strong warming. Inversions are very stable layers that act as lids — keeps pollutants and smells concentrated at low levels.”

Mass continued to examine other factors, including wind (it was weak), and writes that there were no reported sewage or other spills in the area, but he did deduce that flooding in the east followed by warm temps caused large areas to be covered by water, some of it farm land. He says the air came from the east side.

So there you have it! The mystery of the smell, explained through meteorology.

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