Siberian wildfires bring more haze to Alaska

Smoke (in yellow) coming from wildfires in Siberia on July 29, 2020. (Image from Division of Forestry Twitter)

Wildfires in Siberia are again bringing haze to Alaska, with smoke reaching as far as Tok and Copper River Valley, said Division of Forestry spokesperson Tim Mowry.

It’s a similar pattern to what happened in early July, when the historic wildfires blanketed a chunk of Alaska in haze.

“It’s exactly what it did last time,” said Mowry.

Russia’s forestry agency is reporting 129 active wildfires as of July 29. They’re burning more than 160,000 acres. That’s far fewer than the four million acres burning in early July, but the majority of the area currently on fire is in Chukotka, just across the Bering Strait from the Seward Peninsula. Satellite images show that the smoke is coming from across Siberia, not just in Chukotka.

By Wednesday, air quality monitors in Anchorage didn’t raise concern about fine particulate. Stations in the municipality showed PM2.5 levels in “green” status, though they have worsened slightly over the past few days, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s website.

Brian Brettschneider, a research scientist with the National Weather Service, said that an area of low pressure dragged the smoke across Siberia over the past few days, making its arrival in Alaska fairly predictable.

“Fortunately this will be a relatively short-lived weather regime that we’re in,” he said, estimating that the smoke won’t linger for longer than a couple more days.

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