To some people on the East Coast, California’s devastating wildfires may seem a world away. But on Monday the skies over New York City carried a grim reminder of the blazes’ massive reach.
According to imaging from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, plumes of smoke from the massive Camp Fire and other wildfires have traveled more than 3,000 miles in a long arc from California to the Northeast US and even out into the Atlantic.
Photos of New York City on Monday evening confirmed the smoke is indeed visible, casting a hazy pall over the skyline.
How do we know that the dark streaks over the sky are from the California fires and not just some other weather anomaly so common to densely populated areas?
The radar imaging helps, for sure. But so does the time of day.
“When smoke gets caught up in the higher atmosphere it can travel across the country and even farther,” explains CNN meteorologist Judson Jones. “But the farther away it travels the harder it is to distinguish as the smoke particles disperse. Often the only way to see it is during sunrises and/or sunsets when the sunlight is refracted, showing off the upper atmosphere.”
The same phenomenon occurred in August, when smoke from the Mendocino Complex fire and others in California spread across the country to the Northeast.
The Camp Fire, which has been raging in Northern California since mid-November, has killed at least 79 people and burned more than 151,000 acres.
Its haze may be barely visible in New York City. But near the site of the fire, people are literally at risk of suffocating. Last week, the National Weather Service warned area residents of potentially dangerous air quality due to the smoke and ash from the fire.