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Siberian fires send smoke to Southern Oregon

Rogue Valley skies are hazy and air quality is down, but this time it’s not the fault of a wildfire from Southern Oregon — or even from the United States.

The visible smoke that’s brought air quality down to “moderate” in the Medford area Friday afternoon originated from wildfires burning an ocean away in the Russian province of Siberia, according to posts from National Weather Service stations in Medford and Portland.

“Currently there are no local fires producing this haze,” the National Weather Service in Medford posted Friday.

Eastern winds pushed smoke from Siberia roughly 3,500 miles across the North Pacific Ocean, according to a post made shortly before 9 p.m. Friday by the National Weather Service in Medford.

The Rogue Valley was hardly the only place that noticed the haze, news reports around the country show.

Southcentral and Eastern Alaska also reported smoke, according to an Alaska Public Media report out of Anchorage, along with other news reports out of the Pacific Northwest.

According to NASA, which on Thursday released satellite photos of the smoke billowing out of Russia earlier this week, the fires causing the haze are largely seasonal, but the burning taiga forests and peat bogs typically generates more smoke than trees or grasses.

Peat bog fires in particular are known to keep smoldering underground over the winter and reemerge in the spring, causing reappeared fires known as “zombie fires,” according to scientists quoted in the NASA release Wednesday.

Putting the fires out is difficult because Siberia is very lightly populated and difficult to access.

Another issue contributing to the fires, according to a Friday Washington Post report, is a dramatic heat wave in the arctic region.

For instance, the remote Siberian town of Verkhoyansk — about 3,000 miles east of Moscow — recorded 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit on June 20. The Washington Post describes it as the highest temperature in the Arctic since 1885, but the town recorded 11 straight days of temperatures of 86 degrees or above.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Carbon monoxide from Siberia in Russia has spread to Medford, according to this Friday NASA Global Modeling and Assimilation Office map annotated by the National Weather Service in Medford.
NASA's Aqua satellite captured this image of Siberian fires criss-crossing the landscape and huge clouds of smoke obscuring large portions of the countryside July 01, 2020.