Smoke from west? No, dust from east


Did the huge forest fires on the US West Coast in September impact air quality in Europe? Not really, the measurements show.

What did have an impact, was dust transported by winds from south east.

An unusual weather type for Northern Europe has brought particles from the south eastern part of Europe. The particles are likely dust from dry soil in agricultural areas, travelling with the wind to Northwest Europe. The impact on air quality this weekend was quite noticeable, as the graphs below show.

The very north, like Tromsø, was particularly hard hit by the winds. However, the days ahead should bring cleaner air and lower air pollution levels also to the arctic city.

PM10 Daily averages. Measurements from OpenAQ.org.
PM10 Daily averages. Measurements from OpenAQ.org.

PM10 Daily averages. Measurements from OpenAQ.org.
PM10 Daily averages. Measurements from OpenAQ.org.

Smoke from the US forest fires didn’t reach ground level in Europe

The animation below illustrates how particles were transported across the Atlantic from the US West Coast, and reached Europe around September 20. We see no trace of this in the measurements above.

Aerosol optical depths 18-22 September 2020, showing transport of particles from the forest fires on the US West Coast. Video by Windy.com.

In our previous story we took a closer look on the air quality on the US West Coast in the middle of September. As of today, California forests are still burning, giving dangerously poor air quality in large parts of the state.

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