A lonely bird call breaks my concentration and I glance upward. Where glacier-topped mountains should be filling the horizon, instead my view is obscured by a strange orange haze. Even the bright sun has given up. It seems to float in the sky as a faint pink ball.
I am a field ecologist working east of the Denali mountain range in Alaska, but the postcard-worthy view of my sites today is obscured by smoke drifting across the border from wildfires burning throughout British Columbia. I have been studying boreal wildfires for years and have a strong understanding of the importance of fire to the boreal forest of Canada.
Boreal wildfires in Canada are spectacular displays of nature’s force — they burn across hundreds of thousands of kilometers and can last for months, sometimes smoldering right through the winter. These fires tend to occur in remote regions that simply cannot be managed. And their zone of impact is much wider than most people ever imagine as soot, ash and smoke drift in long-range atmospheric circulation patterns across geopolitical borders, affecting air quality around the world. [Read more…]