Smoke from forest fires in Russia spreads across Finland during weekend
Air quality deteriorated significantly for example in downtown Helsinki
On Sunday, large amounts of smoke from forest fires raging in Russia reached parts of Southern and Eastern Finland.
In many places, the fine particles significantly deteriorated the visibility, giving people a feeling as if they were living inside a cloud of moist haze. Conditions were exacerbated by very muggy conditions that led eventually to the evening's thunderstorms noted elsewhere on these pages.
Duty meteorologist Inna Haapa from the Finnish Meteorological Institute reported early on Sunday evening that as a result of the smoke coming from Russia, the air quality was very poor in the centre of Helsinki as well as in the Imatra region near the Russian border.
The air quality was also poor for example in Central Finland and in the region of Kuopio in North Savo.
According to the Helsinki Region Environmental Services, the concentrations of airborne fine particles in the air of the Finnish capital were eightfold compared with the normal amount of airborne dust by Sunday.
The concentrations of fine particles began to rise on Saturday evening, when the air currents bringing the smoke into Finland changed their route, starting to blow from the southeast of Russia where the forest fires are currently raging.
The aiborne pollutants originating from Russia could be perceived as an acrid smell of smoke and as a light fogginess that reduced visibility.
Airborne fine particles can irritate people’s airways. For example, smoke could cause respiratory symptoms to elderly persons with asthma or coronary disease.
”However, the poor air quality should improve on Monday at the latest, when the winds turn to the southwest”, Inna Haapa comforted those who are suffering from the smoke.
”Colder air currents will then come from cleaner regions, pushing the worst of the smoke in the air back to the east”, Haapa added.
Similar elevated concentrations of fine particles to those measured on Sunday were also recorded in Finland at the end of July. Even then the smoke originated from fires in Russia.
The situation was even worse in the summer of 2006, when the concentrations of fine particles originating from Russia were as much as twofold compared with the amounts measured this time.
On Friday of last week, Finland's Ministry for Foreign Affairs joined other nations' authorities in warning travellers of visiting Moscow at the present time, owing to the seriously elevated health risks from smog in the Russian capital.
The ministry also contacted the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations on Sunday, expressing Finland's willingness to examine the situation and asking for any possible requests for additional assistance.
Finland's scope for providing help to the beleaguered Russians, who have been suffering an unprecedented heatwave since June, is nevertheless restricted since the country does not have heavy-duty airborne firefighting equipment, and furthermore resources are needed at home because of the recent storm damage and the risk of forest fires from Finland's own exceedingly hot summer.
The all-time August record for maximum temperature in Finland was broken on Saturday in Heinola and Puumala, and the new figure of 33.8°C was equalled in Lahti on Sunday. The previous highest temperature recorded in August dated from 1912.
A whole clutch of new records was set during July, which was exceptionally warm and dry in all areas of the country except Lapland.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Smoke from Russian forest fires again reaches Finland (2.8.2006)
Several forest and bush fires raging in Russian areas close to Finland (5.5.2006)
Helsinki´s air quality remains poor for nine straight days (4.5.2006)
Record-hot July ends with a bang (2.8.2010)
Finnish Meteorological Institute