Rain should clear Siberian wildfire haze hanging over Alaska

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

Rain falls in a puddle in front of some woods
Rain falls on July 19, 2021. Smoke particles in the air helps water in the atmosphere form rain drops. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

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 remaining smoke in Southcentral expected to clear with precipitation, 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,” said Jones, “So nice little particles for the rain to form on which will effectively get rid of the smoke.”

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 too 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.

This story has been updated.

Lex Treinen covers culture, homelessness, politics and corrections for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at ltreinen@alaskapublic.org.

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