Wildfires are spanning the northern hemisphere. Local impacts have been severe; notably the loss of habitat and life, including the tragic deaths in Greece. Smoke has caused air pollution problems in nearby cities, exposing millions of people. Moorland fires affected air pollution in Manchester. Cities on the west coast of the US and Canada, including Seattle and Vancouver, issued pollution alerts as forest fire smoke turned day into night. During a national league soccer game in Oregon, players had breaks every 15 minutes, and oxygen was provided for them. But the smoke spreads further. Smoke from Siberian forest fires crossed the Arctic to reach North America in July. Weather models and satellite pictures showed that smoke from North American forest fires crossed the Atlantic in the high atmosphere and reached Europe in mid-August, causing purple skies in southern Ireland. A study in 2011 estimated that between 260,000 and 600,000 early deaths were attributable to air pollution from landscape fires each year. The annual toll normally varies with the La Niña/El Niño cycle that causes yearly variations in global weather. The effects of this year’s fires have yet to be estimated.
Credit: Gary Fuller for The Guardian, 30 August 2018.