The smoke from over 400 forest fires in Siberia reached Alaska and portions of the west coast of Canada by July 31, according to NASA.
The Russian regions of Irkutsk, Buryatia, Sakha and Krasnoyarsk have declared states of emergency as the smoke chokes cities downwind, according to the Associated Press. All smoke can be hazardous, especially for the young or elderly.
However, NASA scientists don’t believe the smoke will be traveling low enough in the U.S. to impact air quality.
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bob Smerbeck said that a storm tracking from Russia across the Bering Sea and into Alaska had steered the smoke into the area.
“Smoke can still be an issue this weekend,” Smerbeck said.
Smoke from a multitude of wildfires in Siberia has swept across the Pacific and reached Alaska and northwestern Canada. (NOAA/NASA)
“The smoke travels at such high altitudes that it’s unlikely to significantly impact air quality in the U.S., unless wind currents reach the surface,” Atmospheric Scientist Colin Seftor said. Seftor works at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and has been tracking the smoke through its journey, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
According to Russia’s Federal Forestry Agency, more than 2.7 million hectares (6,671,845 acres) of Siberian forest is currently ablaze across six different Siberian and Far East regions. It all adds up to about the size of Massachusetts.
Russian officials have stated that although the fires have not encroached upon populated areas, about 800 cities are blanketed in heavy smoke, including larger cities such as Noosibirk, Krasnoyarsk and Chita, the AP reported. It is suspected that some of these fires were started by lightning strikes.
“There will be a storm system crossing Siberia that will cause showers and thunderstorms over the fire areas this weekend, which will help to put out the fires, but lightning could also start new ones,” Smerbeck said.
“The pattern may shift later next week as storms with rain and cooler air shift eastward into the western regions of the fire zones. It may take a while to reach the central and eastern fire zone areas,” he added.