Fine way to start the weekend: tons of blue and yellow. Fair weather clouds didn’t build into showers this time around, nor do I expect them to in the days ahead – and that goes right through the weekend.

But back to the blue skies. I’ve been watching for weeks, and this appears to be yet another day where we were either shrouded, glanced, laced or kissed by smoke from the forest fires burning in the Northwest Territories. Wait – am I still harping on that??

Yes I am – sheerly for its historical and meteorological context (climate change-wise, it’s an expected outcome). Close to 7 million acres has burned this summer, an unprecedented amount of boreal forest in a normally damp climate. Amidst a drought, temperatures have soared to record levels while the fires have raged out of control. So much heat has been generated by the fires, cumulonimbus (thunderstorm) clouds have formed above the fire zone:


While this is not unheard of, the smoke transport is: plumes have been spotted all the way to Portugal. What’s most concerning about these pyrocumulonimbus clouds is that they are very efficient smoke stacks, injecting pollutants all the way to the stratosphere, where, according to wildland fire specialists (yes, they do exist), they may take years to settle out. Think of these storms as a mini volcanoes, each injecting smoke particles 10-15km into the upper atmosphere. So why care (besides air quality)? Smoke – like ash from a volcano – scatters sunlight and has a cooling effect on the planet. One storm may not be a big deal, but so far these fire specialists have counted 10 just in this fire alone. Of course, the question becomes how much cooling could we see? Jury’s still out on that, but don’t be surprised if we get slapped around by the cold this winter. The concentration of the smoke – and subsequent dispersal into the upper atmosphere – is greatest in the high latitudes, a breeding ground for cold blasts.

Enjoy the summer weekend.


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