Smoke from deadly, raging forest fires in Mexico is traveling more than 1,000 miles north into Arizona, causing teary eyes and reduced visibility in Tucson, the National Weather Service said Tuesday.
"We can see that. Some of that is coming from Mexico up through the Gulf of California and then coming up into southeastern Arizona," said Bob Berkovitz, meteorologist for the Weather Service in Phoenix, after scanning satellite images.Because of high clouds, it was difficult to say how much of the haze, if any, was reaching into the Phoenix area, Berkovitz said.
But in Tucson, meteorologist Jim Meyer said the haze from the forest fires had reduced visibility, though not enough to affect aircraft traffic.
"It's been a little bit hazy the last couple of days," Meyer said. The haze was worst on Monday, when it was difficult to see the Santa Catalina Mountains, just north of Tucson, he said.
Visibility was cut in half Monday, from a norm of up to 50 miles, to just 25 miles, Meyer said. Tuesday, visibility was only 30 miles, and some Tucsonans were reporting teary eyes from the smoke, he said.
Berkovitz said the haze will be short-lived. By Thursday, cooler and dryer air from the Pacific will move west, blowing out the smoke.
Still, Weather Service observers were amazed that the haze could travel so far, funneled along the Sierra Madres from southern Mexico, where El Nino has produced just the opposite effects as the cool, moist weather Arizona's have enjoyed this spring.
The most devastating wildfires in seven decades are raging across Mexico and Central America, gobbling millions of acres of forests and grasslands, closing international airports and pushing blankets of smoke into Texas and gritty haze as far away as Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Georgia.
Smoke from the fires has forced government officials in Mexico and Texas to declare health emergencies, and it was blamed for an airplane crash in Guatemala this weekend that killed three people.
At least 50 people have died in Mexico as a result of the fires, most of them while battling the blazes.
The fires, which are burning across the region from Nicaragua north through El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and throughout Mexico, are threatening centuries-old Mayan ruins in Guatemala and have incinerated monkeys, birds and rare plants in some of Mexico's most fragile areas.
The fires have been burning for months, but fed by El Nino-driven drought, have intensified recently.