Smoke from West Coast wildfires reaches Eastern US and Europe
By LUKE MONEY | Los Angeles Times | Published: September 15, 2020
LOS ANGELES (Tribune News Service) — The wildfires that have choked California’s skies with smoke in recent weeks — littering cities with ash, wreaking havoc on regional air quality and transforming the sun into an ominous red orb — have now stretched their sooty tendrils to the other side of the country and beyond.
Plumes from deadly and record-breaking fires burning up and down the West Coast are being caught in the atmospheric jet stream and carried across the United States, according to the National Weather Service.
There is enough smoke to partially shroud the sun in parts of the East Coast, forecasters said.
“Satellite images this morning show smoke aloft moving over much of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic,” the weather service’s Baltimore-Washington office tweeted Tuesday morning. “This smoke is obscuring the sun, and will keep temperatures a few degrees cooler today than what would be observed if the smoke was not present.”
Smoky and hazy conditions have been reported this week in New York, Boston and even Maine.
The U.S. wildfires have even become an unwelcome expatriate in Europe — with West Coast-originating smoke being reported as far away as the Netherlands and Hamburg, Germany.
The massive fires are also throwing off significant amounts of pollutants. Satellite readings taken over the last week show high-altitude concentrations of carbon monoxide that are more than 10 times above normal, according to NASA.
“The intense heat from the wildfires lofted the carbon monoxide high into the atmosphere … the jet stream then blew the carbon monoxide plume eastward across the U.S. and over the Atlantic Ocean,” officials wrote in a statement.
Carbon monoxide “can persist in the atmosphere for about a month and can be transported great distances,” officials added.
“At the high altitude mapped in these images, the gas has little effect on the air we breathe; however, strong winds can carry it downwards to where it can significantly impact air quality,” the statement continued. “Carbon monoxide plays a role in both air pollution and climate change.”
The devastating toll of this year’s fire season goes far beyond air quality in California, however. As of Tuesday, 25 people had died in the firestorm.
More than 3.2 million acres have burned across the state this year, the largest amount on record. The fires have also destroyed at least 4,100 structures and forced more than 60,000 people from their homes.