16 September 2020
This week’s spooky sunsets and hazy skies in eastern North America are due to smoke from the massive wildfires in Washington, Oregon and California. The smoke is so intense that it’s dispersing across the continent and across the Atlantic, causing haze in Europe.
Near sunset on Monday 14 September the sun was a strange shade of pink in Pittsburgh, captured above in true color by Jonathan Nadle.
We can’t see the smoke coming but the satellites do, blowing eastward in two paths on Tuesday 15 September: one over the Northern Plains and Great Lakes, the other over Nebraska to Kentucky and Virginia.
#SATELLITE SPOTLIGHT: #Smoke from the #WesternWildfires continued to blow eastward today, as seen here from @NOAA‘s #GOES16??. Although it wasn’t nearly as thick as in the West, the smoke caused #hazy skies in many cities along the East Coast–including Boston, New York, and D.C. pic.twitter.com/AhP4mlYgSX— NOAA Satellites – Public Affairs (@NOAASatellitePA) September 16, 2020
It’s also blowing west over the Pacific, shown here on Friday 11 September.
UPDATE: In this 24-hr #GeoColor loop, @NOAA‘s #GOES17?? is watching the #smoke from the #WesternWildfires blowing over the Pacific Ocean and swirling into a low pressure system. @NIFC_Fire says nearly 28,000 firefighters and support personnel are responding to the #fires. pic.twitter.com/hUURtBiSLH— NOAA Satellites – Public Affairs (@NOAASatellitePA) September 12, 2020
The haze is inconvenient for us but truly hazardous on the West Coast. The dark brown colors on the map below are the worst air quality in the world. The air is so bad that people are leaving the area. I know of at least one person who’s fleeing from San Francisco to Pittsburgh.
By now the fires cover 4.5 million acres, an area so large that it’s hard to imagine. To help you visualize it The Guardian has created an interactive map comparing the fire acreage to well known cities and your own hometown — click here or on the tiny screenshot below. NOTE: The comparison below is for New York City. I compared the fire acreage to Pittsburgh and found it would run from approximately I-80 to the PA-West Virginia line!
Meanwhile the sunsets are still creepy.
None of us are immune to this huge effect of climate change. Smoke gets in our eyes.
UPDATE: Janet Campagna, who lives in California, remarked that the days are much cooler because the sun can’t get through the smoke. This reminded me of the volcanic winter which results from smoke in the atmosphere after giant volcanic eruptions such as Krakatoa in 1883 and Mount Pinatubo in 1991.