Smoke from raging Russian wildfires blew thousands of miles and almost passed Pacific Ocean

Smoke streams from multiple Russian wildfires on Sept 28, 2016, as seen by NASA’s Terra satellite. Active burning is marked in red. Lake Baikal is at lower right. (Source: NASA Worldview)

Toward the end of September, wildfires raging near Russia’s Lake Baikal lofted thick clouds of smoke that cast a pall over a huge region. Picked up by east-to-west winds, the smoke was blown more than 3,000 miles to the east, all the way out into the Pacific Ocean.

Make sure to check out the animation lower down in this post showing aerosols from the fires drifting east. But first, some background on these fires:

Siberia has experienced a long-term upward trend in average temperatures near the surface, as seen in this time series beginning in 1979 and continuing through the end of 2015. (Source: Climate Reanalyzer, University of Maine)

This year brought a large number of particularly intense wildfires to Siberia. And a “long dry period and unusual warm weather” helped keep the fires blazing several weeks past the normal end of the wildfire season, according to Sergey Verkhovets of Siberian Federal University, quoted in Gizmodo.

The season typically winds down in early September when the first snowflakes start to fly. Satellite imagery shows some wildfire activity extending into early October.

The image at the top of this post shows the smoke from dozens of individual blazes, as seen by NASA’s Terra satellite on Sept. 28, 2016. The red dots mark places where a sensor on Terra detected active burning.

Lake Baikal is in the lower right quadrant of the image. Note the snow cover on the surrounding mountains. This is indicative of just how late in the season these wildfires were burning.

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