In recent days, skies over Massachusetts have turned hazy and milky, and the morning sunrise has been tinted with red.
The science behind it can be traced back to heavy smoke from wildfires sweeping through parts of Canada, said Kyle Pederson, meteorologist with National Weather Service in Norton.
The smoke from the Albera fires has gotten caught in the jet stream, which carries it east toward the New England region, he said.
The smoke will likely start to thin out Monday evening, with model data showing an upper level wave pushing “a little bit further south,” Pederson added. “But there may be more smoke headed our way for later in the week.”
Alberta is battling dozens of wildfires, forcing evacuations around the Canadian province.
On Monday there were more than 80 active fires burning in Alberta, with just over 500 fires recorded in the past year, said Brett Anderson, senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.
Alberta has been “unseasonably dry” since January, he added. Now that it’s May, temperatures are “extremely warm” and “everything is dried up very quickly.”
Many fires are also started by people and can spread rapidly, setting the stage for a “quick start to the fire season” in Western Canada, Anderson said.
“ [T]heir fire season has started at a tremendous pace. As of right now, the total area burned in Alberta is already the second most on the record,” he said. The current record was set in 1981.
“It looks like this year, certainly, is going to surpass that probably in June at some point. So this will be the worst fire season most likely in Alberta history — at least recorded history,” Anderson added.
The fires have generated a tremendous amount of smoke across Western Canada, and because of the jet stream orientation, winds are being steered high in the atmosphere, he said.
Much of the smoke has been directed into the northern United States, the northern plains, and then eastward into the northeastern part of the country.
“The result of that is a lot of haze,” Anderson said.
Because the majority of the smoke is not reaching the ground in the eastern part of the country “it’s not affecting the air quality,” in places like New England, he said. “But you’re noticing it with hazy skies, red sunsets,” and colorful sunrises.
There is a slight cooling effect most people won’t notice during the day as a result of the smoke, which reduces the amount of sunshine reaching the ground, Anderson said.
With forecasters expecting a transition to El Nino conditions in the Pacific, it’s likely the summer will continue to be dry across Western Canada, he added. Combined with lightning storms in the mountains, there will not be “much relief in terms of fires long-term here through the summer,” Anderson said.
Which could mean more hazy days for New England this summer and fall.
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