Friday, July 10, 2015

Smoke, Haze From Canada Fires Obscuring U.S. Summer

Smoke and haze from Canadian wildfires makes
for an eerie sunset over Lake Champlain
in St. Albans, Vermont Wednesday. 
Wednesday around my home in St. Albans, Vermont should have been one of those absolutely classic Green Mountain summer days.

A cold front had swept down from Canada early in the morning, whisking away stifling humidity that had settled over the state the day before, and that night.

Usually these cold fronts yield what I call "Blue/Green days, something the Vermont Department of Travel and Tourism regularly prays for.

In the fresh, dry Canadian airmass, Blue/Green days feature a brilliant, haze-free blue sky. The lush green of the hills, mountains and hayfields gleams royally in the sun.

The air is refreshing, the view for hikers from the mountaintops lasts forever, and you can almost hear the Trapp family singing "The Hills Are Alive....."

Not Wednesday. The cold front certainly cleared out the humidity. The sun came out, sort of. But the sky was a faint slate blue. The few clouds in the sky looked pinkish brown, not billowy white like usual. If you could see the mountains at all through the haze, they were just grayish blue, faint outlines.

What the hell happened to our glorious summer?


Specifically, it's been hot and dry in the western half of Canada, much of Alaska and parts of the western United States. What is normally those clean, bright airmasses that occasionally drift down from Canada picked up a lot of this smoke and blew it across the border into New England.

Actually, much of the country is getting these smoke attacks. A big ridge of high pressure is contributing to the western heat and encouraging those fires. Downstream from the ridge, the airflow heads southeast into the United States, bringing the smoke from the fires with it.
A wildfire in Saskatchewan, Canada this month
Photo by Scott Knudsen, Northscope Photography via CBC.  n

Yes, it is a First World Problem on my end, complaining about hazy skies when I want a blue sky.

But the smoke and haze is just not a disappointment. It is pollution after all. Fine particles in the haze and smoke can cause lung trouble.

As the Washington Post noted, the 350 fires burning in Canada, some of them quite large, are sending enough smoke into the United States to occasionally prompt air pollution alerts.

People with pre-existing lung conditions in particular can really be hurt by all this smoke.

It looks like the entire rest of the summer will be smoky, at least occasionally. The number of fires, already huge, are expected to grow.

Enormous fires are burning in Saskatchewan, Canada. They're so huge that 1 percent of Saskatchewan's population has been forced to flee the fires. That's 13,000 people kicked out of their homes because of the fires.

Some experts think the Saskatchewan fires won't be completely extinguished until the snow flies, says the CBC  

This is anecdotal, but it seems to me we are seeing increasingly smoky summers due to Canadian, Alaskan and western fires in recent years.

The increase in these fires is consisten with what climate experts say is resulting from global warming. If that's the case, smoke and haze might end up becoming a permanent part of our once pristine New England summers.

No comments:

Post a Comment