Alaska's heat wave feeds dangerous smoke, melts glaciers

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA: Alaska is driving forest fires and melting glaciers, choking the largest cities in the state with smoke and pumping rivers with melting water.

In Anchorage, home to about 40 percent of Alaskans, the National Weather Service issued a dense smoke warning on Sunday, warning of prolonged outdoor activities, along with notices for the elderly and the sick to stay indoors. .

The culprit is the Swan Lake wildfire south of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, which has been burned by lightning on June 5 and has consumed more than 68,000 acres, firefighters said.

To the north, in Fairbanks, firefighters ordered evacuations in two areas and told residents of a third to prepare to leave due to the Shovel Creek fire, which had increased to 5,568 acres by Sunday.

People must GO, evacuate NOW. Exit immediately. DO NOT delay to leave, said the evacuation order.

In all, there were 354 forest fires covering 443,211 acres in Alaska until Sunday morning, according to state and federal fire managers.

Along with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, which had multiple active fires, the iconic places with fires include the Denali National Park and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Record heat and near-record heat in most parts of the state have created flammable conditions from the Canadian border in the east to the Bering Sea coast in the west.

Anchorage was one of the areas that experienced a heat record in June, after a record-breaking hot spring for all of Alaska, said Rick Thoman, a climate scientist from Fairbanks from the Alaska Climate Assessment and Policy Center.

This very warm weather, in the warmest part of May, the very early snow, then we had those two weeks of lightning, it's the classic configuration, said Thoman.

The melting glaciers and snow fields in the mountains are rivers and streams that open up in a large swath of south-central Alaska, the NWS said.

The meltwater brought water levels to the flood stage on the Yentna River northwest of Anchorage on Sunday, said NWS preacher Bob Clay.

(Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage, Alaska Edited by Rich McKay and Raissa Kasolowsky)