Before rainfall, Southcentral Alaska's lovely sunsets attributed to Siberian fires

Katie Medred
Southcenteral Alaska is seeing some spectacular sunsets. That distinctive orange-red glow to the midnight sun is attributed to wildfires burning all the way across the Pacific Ocean. Loren Holmes photo

Until Saturday morning's steady rainfall interceded, Anchorage and other parts of Southcentral Alaska had been draped in the haze of summertime fires, mainly from Siberia. According to the National Weather Service's facebook page, a westbound wind pattern pushed smoke from fires burning in Russia and Eastern Asia across the Pacific into Alaska.

We're not the only ones receiving blow-over; Seattle and Vancouver, too, report an increase in smoky air.

NBC News reports the recent fantastic sunsets are courtesy of uncontrolled Russian fires burning across the eastern Siberian plains. And NASA's Earth Observatory website points out that it's not uncommon for smoke to waft from one continent to another. Wildfires can throw off enough smoke to create huge plumes, which can travel into the earth's atmosphere to be snatched up and pushed by high-level winds, traveling far from their original source.

The smoggy air quality, though irritating, offers vibrant red-orange sunsets.

Cliff Mass, meteorologist at the University of Washington, explains on his blog that winds pushing dust and smoke across the Pacific obscure our perception of white light from the sun. The foreign "pollution" in the atmosphere blocks enough of the full spectrum that red-orange light becomes pronounced. Thus, the colors we recognize on earth are less blue and yellow and more red and orange.

The world incident map for wild fires shows most of East Asia and central Russia showered in red dots. Fortunately, Alaska is seeing a steady decline in summer fire activity. In June, more tha 250 fires burned throughout the state. But according to Alaska Interagency Coordination Center (AICC), as of July 20 only 15 remain, none of them new burns.

For more on Alaskan wildfire updates check the National Weather Service's fire-watch map or AICC's active fire map.