Russian smoke arrives

There might be a smoky haze in parts of the province this BC Day long weekend, but not from local fires.

AccuWeather meteorologists say smoke from more than 400 forest fires in Siberia has reached Alaska and portions of the West Coast.

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, but NASA scientists don't believe the smoke will be traveling low enough to impact air quality.

AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bob Smerbeck said 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.

"The smoke travels at such high altitudes that it's unlikely to significantly impact air quality...unless wind currents reach the surface," said Atmospheric Scientist Colin Seftor, who works at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and has been tracking the smoke.

According to Russia's Federal Forestry Agency, more than 2.7 million hectares 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.

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.

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