Rain should clear Siberian wildfire haze hanging over Alaska

Rain falls on July 19, 2021. Smoke particles in helps water in the atmosphere form rain drops, which can sometimes cause heavier precipitation. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Rain should clear out the remaining smoke from massive wildfires in Siberia that blanketed much of Alaska in haze for the last several days.

Wildfires have burned over 30,000 square miles in Siberia this year, about the size of the state of Maine. The burning taiga is sending a massive plume up into the atmosphere and then over to Alaska, where it first covered Northwest Alaska before moving down to Southcentral.

The smoke is expected to clear when precipitation starts, according to Carson Jones, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Anchorage.

“When it rains, the moisture actually needs particles to accumulate on so the rain will actually use the smoke particles as cloud condensation nuclei,” Jones said. “So nice little particles for the rain to form on which will effectively get rid of the smoke.”

He said that having smoke in the air allows rain drops to form more quickly.

“It could be a little heavier than the storm would be without it,” said Jones.

Jones said just like in 2020, smoke gets conveyed across the Pacific along the jet stream. While some of the smoke has mixed into the lower atmosphere, the majority of it stays much higher and doesn’t affect air quality severely. Instead, it adds an orange tinge to the sunlight as smoke particles reflect sunlight.

Southcentral Alaska recorded several daily record high temperatures over the weekend, including in Palmer, where temperatures hit 83 degrees.

Alaska Public Media

Alaska Public Media is our partner station in Anchorage. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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