Oregon’s historic Bootleg Fire is so big, that its smoke has triggered air quality alerts on the East Coast.
CNN explains, “Extraordinary plumes of wildfire smoke are … reaching so far up into the atmosphere that they are being carried thousands of miles east by high-level winds.”
“In areas where skies are ‘clear,’ thick smoke aloft is limiting sunshine, with no discernible sunrise visible at our office earlier this morning despite practically clear skies!” wrote the National Weather Service office in Albany, New York on Tuesday morning.
The San Francisco Gate reports that “the air quality index (AQI) in New York was 155 — unhealthy — as of Tuesday afternoon. By comparison, the AQI in Beijing, a city that regularly makes headlines for air pollution, was 59, moderate.”
Smoke also impacted air quality – and views – in the upper Midwest. The New York Times explains:
On Tuesday, eerie orange sunsets were coupled with scratchy throats and watering eyes for many people across the two regions.
Fine particulate matter, which is released during wildfires (and also through the burning of fossil fuels), is dangerous to human health. Breathing high concentrations of PM2.5 can increase the risk of asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes.
As of Wednesday morning, the Bootleg Fire – the third largest in Oregon’s history – has burned 394,407 acres and is just 32% contained. 2,250 firefighters are struggling with high winds and dry vegetation.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are currently more than 80 large wildfires burning more than 1.2 million acres across 13 states, mostly on the West Coast.
The Guardian explains how climate change has fueled the dangerous uptick in wildfires:
The extremely hot, dry conditions fanning these fires are linked to human-caused climate change. The US west has grown much drier and warmer over the past three decades and is expected to grow more extreme which, in turn, is poised to create more frequent and destructive wildfires.