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Smoke from US wildfires may affect Estonia's air quality

BC, Tallinn, 18.09.2020.Print version

According to the Estonian Environment Agency, the smoke from the large fires raging on the west coast of the United States is moving across the Atlantic to northern Europe and may also reach Estonia in the coming days to affect local air quality, LETA/BNS writes.

The smoke cloud heading towards us is evidenced by the satellite images of the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service used in weather forecasts, spokespeople for the Environment Agency said. As is known, more than 30 mln tons of carbon dioxide have been released into the atmosphere as a result of the extensive fires that have lasted for almost a month. Fires emit so much pollution into the atmosphere that smoke clouds can be found even more than 8,000 kilometers away.

"Landscape fires mainly emit CO2 and water vapor. In addition, particles, carbon oxides, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen, sulfur and other compounds are formed. Pollution from landscape fires depends on the duration and intensity of the fire, the total area of the burned area and the type and quantity of burned plants. The current landscape fires in California are already estimated to emit more CO2 than the amount emitted by power plants," Elo Mandel, leading air specialist at the data management department of the Environment Agency, said.

According to Mandel, depending on the weather and the dispersion conditions, the pollution can travel very far from the actual location of the fire. Particles are dangerous to our health, causing lung and cardiovascular disease. Pollutants also affect the formation of clouds and precipitation in the atmosphere. Much of the massive landscape fires off the west coast of the United States are known to have originated from lightning strikes, which is a good example of how weather events have caused sources of air pollution.

As a result of the current air surveillance observations, no dangerous phenomena have been observed in Estonia. Real-time data can be tracked from two sources -- data concerning Estonia can be found at http://ohuseire.ee/, while information regarding Europe is available at https://aqicn.org/map/europe#@g/56.9662/20.7642/5z

The Environment Agency uses remote monitoring and in this case the agency has been monitoring the forecast of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) models. According to preliminary forecasts, CO concentrations may increase by Monday.

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