Siberian fires stoke Wasatch Front haze

Siberian fires stoke Wasatch Front haze

21 April 2015

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USA/Russia — If you think it seems early in the year to be this hazy out, you’re right.

The brown smog hanging over the Salt Lake Valley and Utah County is actually smoke from deadly fires in southern Russia that have killed more than two dozen people and left thousands homeless.

On Tuesday, the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City released a NASA image via social media to help explain what residents are seeing.

“It happens to be that time of year where everything that is burning is being exacerbated by the strong winds,” said Lisa Verzella, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

Fires set to burn the dry grasses — much like those set by farmers in Utah to clear ditches and fence lines — erupted into out-of-control blazes in Siberia that rapidly spread across the land and impacted 38 villages.

An estimated 6,000 firefighters are trying to quell the fires.

While the smoke from the fires is credited with creating spectacular red sunsets across the Pacific Coast of North America, the smoke’s fine particulate matter is also mucking up air quality in some areas.

Bo Call, manager of the air monitoring section with the Utah Division of Air Quality, said the elevated levels of fine particulates prompted the agency to issue a wood-smoke alert Tuesday.

The measurements for PM2.5 began to creep up the scale Tuesday morning, but levels never came close to breaching the federal threshold for unhealthy air, he added.

The haze is likely to hang on into weekend given the pattern of the jet stream. While precipitation will be effective at scrubbing out some of the haze, when the rain dries up, the smoke will return, Verzella said.

“It looks pretty constant,” she said.

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