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Spectacular sunsets in North America 'due to Siberian forest fires', NASA 'spies in the sky' reveal

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12 July 2012


Picture: NASA's Earth Observatory / Goddard Space Flight Center

Siberia isn't the only place with fires raging through the hot summers months. There is a similar problem in various regions of North America. 

But never before - using new technology -  has science shown precisely how smoke from one continent can move rapidly to another around the globe. 

'Images of data taken by the nation's newest Earth-observing satellite tracked aerosols from the fires taking six days to reach America's shores,' says the NASA website. 

'Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (S-NPP) satellite's Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS) tracks aerosols, like this smoke, that are transported by winds across the globe. 

The impact of the smoke in Canada has caused mixed reactions. 

wildfire in Siberia

There have been stunning sunsets in western Canada, according to British Columbia's Ministry of Environment air-quality meteorologist, Eric Taylor.

Yet as media reports state, ozone levels reached 84 parts per billion, about three times the average for July.

'It appears that in this smoke there must have been a lot of other pollutants - natural pollutants -  that come from forest fires, so much that it has generated ozone to a much higher extent than normal,''  said Taylor. 

'I have never seen ozone levels at the ground in the central interior as high as I've seen them in the last couple of days.'

Colin Seftor, an atmospheric physicist for Science Systems and Applications at NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre has studied aerosols using OMPS data - and created images from them. 

'This smoke event is one example that shows that what happens over one area of the earth can easily affect another area thousands of miles away, whether it's from Asia to North America or North America to Europe,' he explained to the NASA website. 

'For this event, I found out that the smoke plumes were lofted up to at least 12 kilometres (or about 7.5 miles) from the intense heat of the fires. At that point the smoke got picked up by higher level winds.'

'The thickest area of smoke appears over Mongolia. This high concentration is transported across the Pacific Ocean and crosses into Alaska,' he said. 

The Canadian experts say thick smoke from the Siberian fires went south over the Pacific Ocean before making an upswing to approach British Columbia from the southwest.

On July 10, there were Russian reports that 20 out of 68 wildfires have been extinguished in the country's far-eastern regions within the previous 24 hours.

These fires had destroyed 5,034 hectares of forests.

'According to latest reports, there are more than 30 taiga fires in four Far Eastern regions. Fires are reported on an area of 2,200 hectares in Yakutia, on an area of more than 2,000 hectares in the Khabarovsk Territory, and laso in Sakhalin and Chukotka. A total of 18 wildfires have been contained,' reported Itar-Tass news agency.

'Fire fighting operations involve 1,507 rangers, 302 fire vehicles and 20 aircraft.'

This summer some 1,826 fires covering almost 200,000 hectares have been registered in the Russian far east. 

Further west, in the Siberian federal district, summer blazes  had risen from 18,000 hectares to 24,500 hectares.

The worst blazes are raging in Krasnoyarsk territory, Tomsk and Irkutsk regions.   

But all wildfires were extinguished in the Republic of Tuva.

Firefighters were making strenuous efforts to extinguish blazes and some 25 forest fires were put out over an area of 4,111 hectares, one of them covering 1,500 hectares.

Unconfirmed reports this week said that Russia Emergencies Ministry was planning a 20 per cent cut - some 40,000 workers - by 2013.  

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