Smoky haze from wildfires in Canada engulfed New York City on Wednesday
Smoke from hundreds of wildfires in Canada reached Europe on Friday after blanketing provinces and large parts of the United States in thick smoke this week.
And while the noxious smoke was finally easing over the northeast on Friday, the fires still posed a major threat.
More than 420 fires are raging across Canada from British Columbia in the west to Nova Scotia in the east. At least half of these fires are burning out of control, and tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes.
While air quality improved in large cities like New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia on Friday, pollution increased across central and southern states including the cities of Chicago, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
Global temperature rise, caused by emissions from burning fossil fuels, is leading to more large, erratic wildfires around the world. And it’s a vicious circle: the emissions pumped into the atmosphere by fires add to global heating, further drying out the land and vegetation, making it more susceptible to catching fire.
Wildfires are causing heavy air pollution. So what’s causing the wildfires?
Climate scientists agree: although fires are part of the ecosystem in some regions, the climate crisis is making them more frequent and intense.
Dozens of studies have linked larger wildfires to global heating that is caused by emissions from burning of fossil fuels. The last decade has been the hottest on record globally.
Snow melt earlier in the year combined with droughts and higher temperatures lead to drier soil and vegetation which is primed to burn.
In the US, the last National Climate Assessment, produced by the federal government, linked “human-caused climate change” with the rise in wildfires.
Wildfires and climate change form a vicious circle: the carbon pumped into the atmosphere by fires increases global heating, further drying out the land and vegetation, making it more susceptible to catching fire.
The New York City Mayor’s Office speaks about the air quality - watch live
NYC and DC public schools cancel outdoor activities as wildfire smoke plagues East Coast
New York City and Washington DC have canceled outdoor activities in public schools as wildfire smoke drifting from Canada clouds the skies and creates unhealthy air conditions across the northeastern US.
Officials anticipate air quality to improve on 7 June but will likely deteriorate later in the day, according to forecasters, after eye-watering smoke and polluted conditions triggered alerts across the region. Thirteen states have issued air quality alerts.
Thick smoke was expected to drift across New York City and Philadelphia through Wednesday afternoon. Smoke is expected to reach as far south as South Carolina.
My colleague Alex Woodward has more below.
Hazardous air quality conditions trigger alerts in 13 states
Bladerunner-esque skies in New York state
The National Weather Service in Binghamton, New York, around 200 miles from the Canadian border, shared this vision of Blade Runner-esque skies on Wednesday morning.
“Sun is no longer visible, everything’s orange, the parking lot lights have come on, and we’re stuck at 50°F,” forecasters tweeted.
Residents in masks, darkened, hazy skies and a blood moon were among the scenes from the US Northeast to emerge late on Tuesday and into Wednesday due to plummeting air quality from Canada’s wildfires.
Read Stuti Mishra’s report on the unprecedented scenes below.
Residents in masks, hazy skies and blood moon, scenes from New York show the impact of plummeting air quality
Quebec orders more evacuations as dozens of wildfires in Canada remain out of control
According to the province’s forest fire prevention agency, more than 150 forest fires were burning in the province on Tuesday, including more than 110 deemed out of control. The intense Canadian wildfires are blanketing the northeastern U.S. and parts of Eastern Canada in a haze, turning the air acrid, the sky yellowish gray and prompting warnings for vulnerable populations to stay inside.
The effects of hundreds of wildfires burning in Quebec could be felt as far away as New York City and New England, blotting out skylines and irritating throats.
Late Tuesday, authorities issued an evacuation order for Chibougamau, Quebec, a town of about 7,500 in the remote region of the province. Authorities said the evacuation was underway and promised more details Wednesday.
The Associated Press
What started the Canadian wildfires?
Canada is dealing with hundreds of intense wildfires that have spread from the western provinces to Quebec, with many raging out of control.
How did they start?
Canadian wildfires cause
Air quality to get worse in New York City later on Wednesday afternoon
Smoke will become more dense in New York City around 4pm local time on Wednesday, according to forecasters.
It is expected to be worse than it was around the evening commute on Tuesday, the Twitter account New York Metro Weather posted.
Public officials are advising New Yorkers to limit their time outdoors and to wear a mask to protect themselves from the air pollution. Low visibility will also be an issue.
Watch: Canadian wildfire smoke moves further south, blankets Washington DC
Climate activists demand New York legislators take more action on fossil fuel
Activists on Wednesday demanded that New York legislators take swifter action to tackle the fossil fuels driving the climate crisis of worsening wildfires and plummeting air quality.
They called for the state to pass the NY HEAT Act - aimed at making the transition to clean energy affordable and eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels.
“Right now in New York City, it looks, feels, and smells like the dystopian climate catastrophe experts have been warning us about for decades. But in the next 48 hours, the Assembly can pass a bill that will curb our reliance on fossil fuels and protect New Yorkers from the poisonous air that’s becoming more and more dangerous by the second,” said Food & Water Watch Northeast Region Director Alex Beauchamp.
“As New Yorkers choke on smoke, the Assembly is failing to meet the scale of the crisis. To prevent New York state from becoming a hellscape where just breathing increases our risk of asthma, the Assembly must pass NY HEAT now.”
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