- 2:03 pm - Thu, Jul 12, 2012
Smokey skies and stunning sunsets in B.C. caused by raging Siberian wildfires
Smoke from raging wildfires in faraway Russia blowing south towards British Columbia has created hazy skies and stunning sunsets in Vancouver, and prompted air quality advisories in other areas of the province.
The smoke from southern Siberia, where massive swaths of land are burning out of control, even pushed ozone levels in parts of the province to never-before-seen numbers, although those levels have since decreased.
By Monday, ozone levels reached 84 parts per billion in the central Interior region, about three times the average for July.
B.C. Ministry of Environment air-quality meteorologist Eric Taylor said that on Sunday and Monday, levels were above 82 parts per billion, causing concerns because of potential health effects for people with respiratory problems, for example.
He said that in the past seven years, levels have only exceeded 82 parts per billion for a total of three hours.
By Wednesday, the ozone levels in the Interior were back down to 40 parts per billion.
“A huge amount of emissions come off of those fires in [Siberia] and some, they’re not even fought,” Taylor said. “They tend to be out of control. It looks like there’s a lot of peat fires that have been burning underground all winter.”
According to the Moscow Times, 54 forest fires were burning across 16,900 hectares of land as of Wednesday.
Although ozone levels in the Interior have dipped, they remained high at the peak of Whistler Mountain on Wednesday, Taylor said, although he didn’t have the specific number.
“All I know is that 2,200 metres above sea level, we have the highest ozone concentrations they have ever measured [at the peak] in the past 10 years,” he said.
Air quality advisories were in effect Thursday in the communities of Kamloops and Merritt because of the high concentration of ozone and fine particulates.