If you looked up at the sky yesterday and wondered why the city's smog coat had suddenly grown so thick, here is your answer: California's catastrophic wildfires have generated so much smoke that it's now visible even on the other side of the country. The smoky haze drifted all the way to the East Coast, clouding up the skies over New York on Monday.
For reference, that's about 3,000 miles. Everything is fine! (Nothing is fine.)
New Jersey-based meteorologist Gary Szatkowski tweeted a map depicting the plume's progress, so that you can better visualize the current situation. The smoke muddied skies over the Pacific Northwest and throughout California, sweeping south and up the Eastern Seaboard, thus:
So if you thought it was just a bit hazy this afternoon, we have a California fire smoke plume moving through. pic.twitter.com/PsYNlAWrgA
— Gary Szatkowski (@GarySzatkowski) November 19, 2018
Those in the fires' vicinity have been advised to remain indoors and avoid excess exposure to the smoggy air, the poor quality of which has reportedly been making outdoor workers sick. Over here, though, the smoke sits too high up in the atmosphere to constitute a public health hazard. Accuweather Senior Meteorologist Tom Kines told LoHud.com that, "As far as air quality it should not cause a problem," Kines said, noting that the smoke had "kind of diluted" as it traveled east.
"I think the fires would have to stick around for quite a while for it to have an effect on the weather in the East," he said.
The fires have in fact been burning for quite a while: Although 10 big blazes are currently alight across the Golden State, the largest is the Camp Fire in Northern California—the state's deadliest wildfire ever—initially ignited in Butte County on November 8. Since then, it has claimed 79 lives, scorched 11,700 homes, and according to CNN, "torched an area the size of Chicago." The heavily polluted air takes a toll on the heart, lungs, and immune system, on top of irritating eyes, throats, and nasal passages. Heavy rains are expected to help put the fires out this week; unfortunately, because the surrounding landscape has been thoroughly ravaged, they could also cause flash flooding and mudslides.
Again, New Yorkers face no apparent health risks from the haze, although as some have pointed out on social media, it's not exactly comforting—from a climate perspective—to watch a natural disaster manifest some physical side effects even on the other side of a continent.
I don't think these are ordinary clouds. My Amtrak ride to NYC through Baltimore, Philly, and Newark has prominently featured an eerie beige haze... What starts in California doesn't stay in California. #wildfires Time to grow up: #climatechange is here. We need a #GreenNewDeal pic.twitter.com/4VrWhCe43x
— Erin Sherman (@WeCouldTestThat) November 20, 2018
I took this photo earlier and wondered why it was so hazy and just read this article that apparently the CA wildfire smoke blew all the way here: https://t.co/Q7RIP5nBvv (it’s an article about philly but nyc also appears affected on the map) pic.twitter.com/mFEIjEcD6x
— princess anna 💖 (@bahnanna4) November 20, 2018
Even so, this residual darkening is not unique: Large Western fires have previously translated to "ghostly white" skies over New York. This time, the smog created a hyper-pigmented, extra orange sunset in the city: