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Plumes of arctic haze traced to Russia, Kazakhstan

Smoke from forest fires, agricultural burning may be substantial part of springtime plumes.

Data gathered by aircraft flying over northern Alaska and the Arctic Ocean in April 2008 hint that many springtime plumes of arctic haze in the region, long thought to be pollutants associated with industrial emissions, may in fact result from forest fires and agricultural burning in Asia.

Distinct layers of dirty air, often dubbed arctic haze, have been regularly observed at high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere since the 1950s. The plumes are particularly apparent during the spring, when the long polar night is coming to an end, but dissipate somewhat as summer progresses. Their sources have never been well identified, says Charles A. Brock, an atmospheric physicist at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.

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