WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Smoke spiraling from the California wildfires extending from Sierra Nevada mountain range to San Francisco and Sacramento is reaching the East Coast.
- The National Weather Service said that smoke from the destructive fires Wednesday has reached states like Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio, Virginia and even New York and Massachusetts.
- Residents throughout the Midwest, South and East Coast are breathing in air that has been impacted by the smoke.
The National Weather Service said on Wednesday that smoke from the raging California wildfires has reached the East Coast and beyond.
Andy Edman, chief of the science technology infusion division at the National Weather Service, explained that smoke from the fires can stay in the air more than a mile above the Earth’s surface making the sky grey. But due to strong winds called jet stream, it can move down and travel all the way to the East Coast, affecting the air we breathe.
“Where the smoke is in the atmosphere will make a difference on the impact a human being will receive,” Edman said.
The National Weather Service has two relevant maps that explore the issue, according to TIME. A map shows the path of “vertically integrated smoke” — that is, the smoke spreading the country staying far above Earth’s surface in the atmosphere.
Another map shows the movement of “near-surface smoke,” which has an impact on air quality.
Particles from smoke near the Earth’s surface, according to NWS, can cause a range of health issues, including respiratory problems, and can make lung and heart problems worse. Officials advise residents of areas impacted by the smoke to stay indoors and run air conditioning units.
Earlier this week, astronauts aboard the International Space Station were able to capture photos of smoke from these fires from space, revealing the smoke’s eastward shift and massive reach. The accumulation of several fires in California has caused this to happen. Three of the biggest fires in the state history are burning right now.
“When you have that many fires, it’s not uncommon for that smoke to go fairly long ways downstream,” Edman says.
The Mendocino Complex fire just north of San Francisco is now the largest fire in California history, searing through 307,447 acres and burning 119 homes as of Friday morning. The 181,000-acre Carr fire has destroyed over 1,000 homes in Redding and killed at least eight people, including three firefighters.
The Ferguson fire scorching near Yosemite National Park prompted park officials to close popular sections of it for the first time in 20 years and the Holy fire down in Orange County forced tens of thousands of residents to evacuate their homes, TIME reported.