The Age of Flames: welcome to the East Coast, and what we can learn from the extreme weather conditions in the New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic
“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.”
“These extreme weather events are tangible and devastating proof of the intensifying climate crisis” said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday.
In other words: East Coast, welcome to the Pyrocene, or the Age of Flames, as fire historian Stephen Pyne calls it. Climate change and human meddling in the landscape have combined to make wildfires bigger and more intense, big enough to send clouds of toxic smoke not only from Canada to the East Coast, but across whole continents. According to Pyne, climate change is acting as a performance enhancer. “There’s no reason to think that those trends will suddenly stop.”
According to the National Weather Service, unhealthy air quality levels are expected to persist in the coastal Northeast on Thursday, before the smoke moves into the interior Northeast and the Ohio Valley on Friday.
There’s a lot to learn since Canadian wildfires suddenly sent clouds of hazy smoke over the border and into parts of the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. this week.
The worst day of record for pollution from fires in Canada: public education, outdoor activities, and public health in the New York City, Washington, DC, public schools
The public school system in New York City has decided to cancel all outdoor activities. Washington, D.C., public schools did the same, scrapping recess, outdoor physical education classes and other events outside.
De Carlo said that he doesn’t expect concentrations to go up much higher unless more fires start burning. “I think the next couple days we’re going to see a shift in that weather pattern [which will] start to push that smoke away from where we are.”
Satellite data is combined with pollution monitors on the ground. Estimates of smoke pollution can be used with population data. The western US typically has to cope with more wildfire smoke than the Northeast. But there are a lot more densely populated cities in the Northeast that were affected by the pollution this week, which is another factor that makes this event so remarkable.
Officials in some areas were urging people to stay inside as much as they can, avoid travel if possible and refrain from any exercise or strenuous activity.
In addition to reduced visibility and a smoky smell, public health experts warned that poor air quality could be especially harmful to people with heart and lung disease, the elderly and young children.
Millions of people woke up to a cloud of hazy air on Wednesday after smoke from fires in Canada spread across the border and blanketed large areas of the US.
Mary Prunicki, director of air pollution and health research at the Sean N.Parker Center for Allergy Research, says that it is a global problem. The immediate health effects of wildfire smoke are devastating for vulnerable people, but more is known about their long-term effects. She says that this is new to have this type of exposure to a group.
Heart attacks, stroke, and bronchitis can be caused by wildfire smoke in people with respiratory issues and pregnant women are at risk. Shahir Masri is an air pollution scientist at the University of California, Irvine.
It was the worst day on record for the average American when it came to pollution from wildfire smoke. Much of the Northeast was covered with a thick haze of smoke from Canada, which was producing record-breaking levels of harmful particulate pollution.
The shocking numbers of deaths in the U.S. Wildfires: How much can you do to protect yourself and your loved ones? When did Marshall Burke come to the Verge?
After the results of his team’s analysis was received via a communication service, Marshall Burke was on the phone with The Verge. “Jesus,” he says — audibly surprised, even though he expected the numbers to be bad. It is truly remarkable. The number is honestly pretty shocking.”
Those figures represent an average for Americans. Some people in the worst-hit areas were exposed to as much as 500 micrograms, an “insanely high level,” according to Burke. New York City and parts of upstate New York were the hardest hit yesterday.
“This is a completely historic event,” Burke says. But with climate change setting the stage for more intense wildfires, historic events are becoming the norm. It feels like a wake up call. It feels like he is getting a sample of things to come.
A go bag for pets is one of the things experts recommend owners keep in case their family needs to leave.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, pets should stay indoors as much as possible when the air quality is low and take only brief bathroom breaks outside. Birds shouldn’t go outside at all when it’s smoky.
University of Denver professor Alex Huffman told Colorado Public Radio that people can also monitor the air quality around them, use a high-quality air filter in their homes and seal up openings in their doors and windows.
Air quality is measured with a scale ranging from zero to 500 with a lower number indicating better air quality and anything over 300 being hazardous.
The fine particles in PM 2.5 can get into the lungs and blood, making it worse than smaller particulate matter.
These are tiny solid and liquid droplets that hang in the air and can be harmful to human health. Particle matter can be found in the air from the fires.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the more technical wildfire-related terms you might hear and what experts say are some of the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones.