Smoke Blowing From Interior Wildfires Puts Southwest Alaska Under Air Quality Advisory

Jul 8, 2019

Credit Rick Thomas / UAF

Smoke is smogging the air in Bethel as Southwest Alaska remains under an air quality advisory from wildfires sweeping through the Interior region. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation issued an advisory on Saturday that continues through Monday evening.

On Monday afternoon, Bethel’s air quality ranked from “moderate” to “unhealthy levels for sensitive groups," including people with heart and lung disease, older adults, and children. Clusters of fires are burning throughout Alaska’s Interior.  National Weather Service Lead Anchorage Forecaster Bob Clay can watch the smoke drift across the region in satellite images.

“It looks kind of like a hazy cloud,” Clay said.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation says that the smoke hazing Bethel is coming from two fires west of Ophir: the Grouch Top and Hurst Creek Fires. The smoke is traveling along winds blowing from the northeast and sweeping across the southwest. Meanwhile, a high-pressure system is pushing the smoke downwards, keeping it low in the atmosphere. That smoke then winds through the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta’s river valleys, shrouding communities.

“Essentially, it takes a least path of resistance,” Clay explained.

The air is expected to begin clearing on Tuesday, when winds are predicted to shift. The winds are supposed to shift to the south, potentially pushing smoke from the Interior fires out of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.