Indications of Climate Change from the Camp Fires in New Jersey and Washington, Washington, and Atlanta, California, on Wednesday morning, and how fires have spread across Canada
“This is something that I think even for folks who are not involved to kind of pay attention to,” Jeff Schlegelmilch, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, told NPR this week, “because this is the type of situation that we’re expecting that we’re going to see more of — not less of — into the future.”
“Make no mistake,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a tweet Wednesday, “from the wildfires in Canada to those cropping up with increasing frequency and severity in our own backyard, these extreme weather events are tangible — and devastating — evidence of the intensifying climate crisis.”
Climate change is to blame for the hotter and dry conditions that lead to longer wildfire seasons, experts say.
On Tuesday, the National Weather Service said air quality across the U.S. had “plummeted,” and by Wednesday morning images of grayish smoky air were ubiquitous in the news and across social media.
The East Coast has been shrouded in smoke from fires in Canada that have created air quality issues for 100 million people. More than 400 fires are burning in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, and Ontario, and half are uncontrolled. The city of New York had the worst air quality on the planet. Philadelphia has issued a code red alert that tells people to stay indoors because the smoke could continue for several more days, stretching through Washington, DC and Atlanta, Georgia. The Camp Fire in California in June of last year was so bad it destroyed the town of Paradise. A range of factors contributed to that massive blaze, including the region’s legacy of fire suppression, which allowed dead brush to pile up. Climate change makes temperatures so hot that the brush outs burn very badly. That’s also the problem in Canada right now. The number of fires for this time of year is slightly above average, but the size and intensity of fires has increased, says Mike Flannigan.
The wake of wildfire smoke in New York City and Washington, D.C., caused by public school busting and weather cancellations in the wake of the BART fires
New York City’s public school system, the largest in the U.S., said Wednesday that it was canceling all outdoor activities. Washington, D.C., public schools did the same, scrapping recess, outdoor physical education classes and other events outside.
“Unless more fires start burning, I don’t expect the concentrations to go up too much higher,” DeCarlo said. The next couple of days will see a changing weather pattern that will push the smoke away from us.
The weather conditions in the US were making it possible for wildfire smoke to spread across the country, according to Peter DeCarlo.
People were urged to stay inside, avoid travel, and refrain from vigorous activity by some officials.
Public health experts warned that poor air quality could be harmful to people with heart and lung disease, elderly and young children.
Millions of people along the East Coast and further inland woke up to a cloud of hazy air Wednesday morning, after smoke from rampant wildfires in Canada floated south across the border and blanketed large swaths of the U.S.
“It’s a global problem now,” says Mary Prunicki, director of air pollution and health research at Stanford University’s Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research. Exposure to wildfire smoke can cause serious health problems for vulnerable people but little is known about long-term effects. “This is relatively new, to have this type of massive exposure to a group that’s never been exposed before,” she says. \
Wildfire smoke can cause immediate health effects, like heart attacks, stroke, and bronchitis, particularly in more vulnerable people with respiratory issues, and can be threatening to pregnant women. “These single exposure events can be really devastating to people with preexisting conditions,” says Shahir Masri, an air pollution scientist at the University of California, Irvine.