Unprecedented fires have burned some 4.5m acres and smoke has made west coast air quality among the worst in the world
Smoke from wildfires in the western US has drifted as far east as New York and Washington DC, with residents there observing hazy skies and unusual sunrises.
Skies above the US capital have taken on a hazy din. New York Metro Weather predicted that murky air seen in New York City this week would become more even pronounced throughout Tuesday.
That’s exactly what it is! In fact, smoke is expected to be even more noticeable tomorrow. You can see the smoke on satellite —> pic.twitter.com/73erjttVXN
This is New York City right now. The smoke from the fires out west is in our skies 😔#CaliforniaFires #californiaisburning #nyc #WestCoastFires pic.twitter.com/8WSU10ERAg
Smoke from the fires has spread across the country and around the world, with reports of haze as far away as Canada and Europe, while images captured by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showing smoke being pulled into a cyclone far out in the Pacific Ocean.
The unprecedented wildfires, which have burned some 4.5m acres (1.8m hectares) as of Tuesday, have torn through towns in Oregon while also devouring forests in California, Washington and Idaho. The resulting blanket of ash and smoke has made the region’s hazardous air quality among the worst in the world.
Hardest hit is Oregon, where tiny bits of smoke and ash known as particulates have reached the highest levels on record in Portland, Eugene, Bend, Medford and Klamath Falls, the state’s department of environmental quality said on Tuesday.
Air quality in five major cities in Oregon was the worst on record as the state continues to be blanketed by thick smoke, state environmental officials said.
Air this week in all five cities was rated “hazardous” according to air quality standards, and in Bend, the air quality index topped 500, exceeding the air quality scale altogether, the department said.
In Seattle, a two-game series between the San Francisco Giants and Mariners in Seattle that was scheduled to start Tuesday was postponed due to air quality. The smoke prompted Alaska Airlines, along with its regional carrier Horizon Air, to suspend all flights in and out of Portland, Oregon, and Spokane, Washington, and several smaller airports until Tuesday afternoon.
A growing body of research paints a bleak picture of the effects of wildfire smoke on the human body. “Wildfire smoke can affect the health almost immediately,” Dr Jiayun Angela Yao, an environmental health researcher in Canada, told the Guardian earlier this month. Yao co-authored a study for the University of British Columbia this summer showing that, within an hour of fire smoke descending upon the Vancouver area during recent wildfire seasons, the number of ambulance calls for asthma, chronic lung disease and cardiac events increased by 10%.
However, smoke over the east coast may not necessarily be affecting air quality, said John Simko, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Generally, such particles are carried high on the wind and may not come close enough to earth to do so.
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