North·BRADLYN'S BLOG

Smoke from Siberia is clouding up the skies in Yukon, N.W.T.

Though it has been a rainy month with fewer wildfires than usual across the western Canadian territories, smoke is still blanketing the landscape through Alaska, Yukon, and the N.W.T.

Yukoners, N.W.T. residents experiencing smoke despite a quiet fire season

Smoky skies in Yukon on Thursday. It's thanks to smoke blowing over the ocean and across Canada's North. (Robert Unger/CBC)

Though it has been a rainy month with fewer wildfires than usual across the western Canadian territories, smoke is still blanketing the landscape through Alaska, Yukon, and the N.W.T.

The cause: fires burning on the other side of the Bering Sea, all the way in Siberia. 

Hot and fiery year in Siberia

It's been a record-breaking summer so far in the Arctic, particularly temperature-wise. There has been one heat record after another stretching from the Canadian Arctic through Europe and Siberia. Extreme temperatures in the Arctic Circle soared as high as 38 C in Verkhoyansk, Russia, in June. 

Smoke forecast for Friday. Smoke and carbon will continue to produce hazy conditions in the Canadian territories. (Bradlyn Oakes/CBC)

And it wasn't just Verkhoyansk. May and June were much warmer than normal in Siberia with some areas as much as 10 C above seasonal.

With temperatures this high, one of the Arctic feedback loops was intensified, leading to peat moss and permafrost thawing, fires erupting and burning non-stop since April. According to Russia's Federal Forestry Agency, 2.7 million hectares are currently burning across Siberia.

Peat soils hold an extremely high amount of carbon, which is released when they are burned. This intensified the smoke composition of the haze that's made its way into Canada and the United States. 

Winds pulling smoke across to North America

In the northern hemisphere, it is typical for weather patterns and wind to move to the east. So, the smoke pattern from Siberia into Alaska and the Canadian territories follows how the atmosphere moves.

This cyclone in the Arctic Ocean has been a major weather maker for the last week of July. It has been pulling warm air in over Alaska, drawing smoke into Yukon and the N.W.T. (Bradlyn Oakes/CBC)

The smoky haze started to make its way into western Alaska through the second half of July, arriving in Yukon and the N.W.T. for the last few days of the month.

NASA-NOAA's Suomi-NPP satellite noticed the smoke as it swirled over Alaska and Yukon. 

Through the last week of July, two low-pressure systems have been spinning around — one in the Pacific, and the other in the Arctic.

WATCH | A smoky Thursday in Yukon

A cyclone in the Arctic Ocean has been a major weather maker for the last week of July. It has been pulling warm air and drawing smoke into Yukon. 0:58

The Arctic summer cyclone is a powerful system that has been pulling air in from across Alaska, over the northern parts of both Yukon and the N.W.T.

This increased the rate at which smoke has moved over the Bering Sea. 

As fires burn on in Siberia, smoke is likely to continue to make its way into northern Canada as summer continues. This is because those 2.7 million hectares currently on fire are constantly injecting smoke into the atmosphere.

About the Author

Bradlyn Oakes

Meteorologist

Bradlyn Oakes, CBC North’s meteorologist, covers the weather and climate for the Canadian territories. You can catch her weekdays on CBC’s Northbeat at 6 pm MT. Have weather photos to share? Send them to bradlyn.oakes@cbc.ca.

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