Friday, August 6, 2010

Smoke In The Valley (From Fires in The Steppes)

I've noticed the last couple of afternoons that it has been kind of hazy here in the valley. I didn't think much about it- it often is hazy on hot summer days. Some of it is from the oxidation of dimethyl sulfide, produced by plankton at the coast. It oxidizes to sulfate, which forms aerosols and cloud condensation nuclei: haze. Some of the haze is also due to volatile compounds produced by the dense and enormous west side conifer forests. A third source during the later part of the summer is local fires- wild, or set purposely for forest or agricultural management. (Ironically, our clearest days occur in the winter- which is notoriously cloudy. But when it's clear, it's very clear.)

So the haze is no surprise. The surprise is that this haze is being blamed on the historic heat wave, drought, and associated fires... in Russia!
Haze in the Willamette Valley likely traveled all the way to Oregon from Russia, rather than over the Cascade Range from a small wildfire near the town of Sisters.

National Weather Service meteorologists say smoke from more than 500 wildfires that have burned through forests and peat bogs in Russia is being carried across the Gulf of Alaska and down to the Northwest.
On Monday, The Big Picture ran a gallery of 38 photos from the Russian fires, which I found pretty mind-boggling. But for the smoke to be making itself known halfway around the world? Wow.

1 comment:

Dana Hunter said...


I thought for a moment that might explain the weird skies in Seattle a few days ago, but that turns out to be from fires from BC. Not as well-traveled, but still. Where I come from, all our icky air either came from Los Angeles or our own torched forests. For some stupid reason, I never considered foreign sources. Border Patrol's falling down on the job!