Smoke from California's massive wildfires is being swept thousands of miles across the US
By Mark Puleo, AccuWeather staff writer
August 15, 2018, 7:14:55 PM EDT
Share this article:
While the entire country remains captivated by the wildfires raging in California, the effects of those fires are spreading far beyond the West Coast. In recent days, winds have been lifting and carrying smoke particles all the way across the country and landing in cities like New York City.
The smoke currently hangs about a mile above East Coast cities, too high above the surface to cause any concern. However, a shift in winds or effects from the jet stream could pull that smoke closer to the ground level. While those possibilities are unlikely, they would increase the risk of respiratory issues.
How inhaling wildfire smoke can wreak havoc on your health
How destructive wildfires create their own weather
Choosing the best wildfire smoke masks
Why it's dangerous, harmful for the public to fly drones above wildfires
"I think it's very unlikely that enough smoke from fires will make it to the East Coast to become hazardous," AccuWeather Meteorologist Jake Sojda said. "Daily chances for showers and thunderstorms will help clean out mid- and low levels of the atmosphere of particulate matter. At most, what any high-level smoke would bring to the East is some very picturesque sunrises and sunsets."
Smoke particles and smog have created uniquely red sunrises and sunsets in recent years as the frequency of wildfires has grown. The particles work as a sunlight filter to allow more orange and red colors of the light spectrum to pass through.
The worst of the fires may still be ahead, as the blazes are expected to continue expanding for the next few months due to dryness and wind. Air quality concerns have been an issue for Californians all summer, as light winds and heat have trapped the smoke from escaping ground level.
For East Coast citizens, that concern could spread as well, as those worsened fires will spread more smoke across the country.
“As we move into September and October, if we get strong strong high pressure in the East, it can certainly trap smoke near the surface in the East for several days,” Sojda said.
Even if the spread of smoke may not be a health concern for people on the East Coast this year, Sojda said it is possible for those risks to heighten in future years.
"If wildfires continue to worsen in the West in coming years, then smoke could also certainly worsen in the East,” he said. "It’s usually a matter of the timing and duration of high-pressure systems moving from the northern Plains to the East that determines whether this smoke stays high in the atmosphere or becomes trapped closer to the surface."
Download the free AccuWeather app to stay aware of fire dangers.
Do you think it'll rain? Make your prediction by clicking on the image above and playing Forecaster Challenge.
Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.
More Weather News
Weather News - November 17, 2018, 3:21:34 PM EST
A narrow batch of snow will streak from the central Plains to the lower Great Lakes through Sunday morning, creating areas of slippery travel.
Weather News - November 17, 2018, 6:19:54 PM EST
This weekend will bring one of the last major meteor shows of the year as the Leonids streak across the sky.
Camp Fire death toll increases to 76; San Francisco pulls famed cable cars off the roads due to poor air quality
Weather News - November 17, 2018, 10:12:47 PM EST
More than a week after first igniting in Butte County, California, the news surrounding the most destructive and deadly wildfire in California history remains grim.
Weather News - November 17, 2018, 11:54:23 PM EST
The weather will cooperate for a majority of those traveling by road or air for the Thanksgiving holiday, with a few exceptions.
Weather News - November 17, 2018, 11:17:11 PM EST
As firefighters battle the deadly California wildfires, rain is expected to significantly aid the fight later next week but new dangers may arise for residents and rescue crews.
Weather News - November 17, 2018, 10:50:29 AM EST
Drenching thunderstorms may do more than ruin weekend plans across central South America. Flash flooding can be triggered in some communities from northern parts of Argentina and Uruguay to southern Brazil.
Weather News - November 17, 2018, 10:39:36 AM EST
As cleanup efforts commence in the wake of Cyclone Gaja, another round of potentially flooding rain is aiming at southern India next week.
Weather News - November 17, 2018, 10:18:01 AM EST
One of the most well-known meteor showers of the year is set to peak this weekend as the Leonids will be on full display across Europe.