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West Coast Wildfire Smoke Reported as Far East as the Netherlands

Hazy skies covered the United States and parts of Europe this week as jet streams pushed fumes eastward

The sun sets behind the Manhattan Bridge and One World Trade Center in a haze created by smoke from the west coast wildfires reaching the east coast on September 15, 2020 in New York City, according to Getty Images. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)
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Smoke from the devastating wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington turned blue skies to a washed-out white across the United States this week. Many cities, including New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., witnessed a few days of hazy skies and vibrant sunsets.

The smoke travelled eastward along a jet stream, a strong air current that circulates high above the ground, according to NASA. Smoke was even reported as far east as the Netherlands. Along with the smoke, small particles and chemicals called aerosols, which cause hazardous air quality, also moved east.

“Satellite images this morning show smoke aloft moving over much of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic,” the National Weather Service’s Baltimore-Washington office tweeted Tuesday morning. “This smoke is obscuring the sun, and will keep temperatures a few degrees cooler today than what would be observed if the smoke was not present.”

Additionally, a westward cyclone sucked in clouds of smoke as it swirled over the Pacific Ocean this week. The storm and smoke have now travelled more than 1,300 miles over the ocean, creating a thick cloud visible from space, reports Anna Buchmann for the San Francisco Chronicle.

The massive fires continue to ravage the West Coast. As of September 13, more than 4 million acres have burned and at least 35 people killed by the fires. As forests and towns in Oregon, California, Washington and Idaho rapidly burn, plumes of ash fill the air.

The air quality in this region is now the worst in the world, topping the most polluted cities globally. In Oregon, particulates of ash and smoke have reached record levels in Portland, Eugene, Bend, Medford and Klamath Falls, reports the Guardian. In Bend, the air quality index measured more than 500, exceeding the upper limit of the scale.

About Claire Bugos
Claire Bugos

Claire Bugos is a journalist and former print intern at Smithsonian magazine. She is a recent graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and history.

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