John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Abnormally warm temperatures have fueled deadly blazes in Siberia.
These past few days, Russia and America have been linked by a massive weather phenomenon: a long plume of acrid smoke, stretching across the Pacific and beyond.
NASA, which posted the above satellite image from Saturday, surmises the acrid vapors were boiling off wildfires in southern Russia. "Farmers there have an old tradition of burning dried grass in the spring to fertilize the soil for the coming year," writes space agency, before getting dark:
In April 2015, unusually warm temperatures and strong winds turned the tradition into a nightmare. Several fires escaped the control of their handlers and spread rapidly across the dry landscape. According to media reports, escaped fires devastated several villages, killed about two dozen people, and left thousands homeless.
When the smoke arrived over the Pacific Northwest, it was still relatively high in the atmosphere and did not have a major effect on the air quality at the surface. However, the extra particles in the atmosphere did make for some striking red sunsets in the region.
Yesterday, NASA's OMPS blog released an updated image showing the smoke becoming diffuse over much of the United States. Sooty aerosols, seen here in blue, drifted over the West Coast, Alaska, Canada, and the Midwest. "You can even see smoke over Newfoundland," says the agency.
It's strange how one country's misery can become another's eye candy, but here are some of the likely smoke-reddened sunsets people have been seeing in the Pacific Northwest: