There are currently 103 large, active wildfires burning in the West, which have destroyed over 1.5 million acres of land so far. Most of those fires have been in California and Oregon, but there is even one in the eastern US, burning in Florida.

These massive fires emit high concentrations of smoke, and the upper-level weather pattern is allowing for that smoke to track from the West Coast to the East Coast of the US, allowing for hazy and perhaps smoky skies as well as lower air quality.

This HRRR model animation for the next 36 hours (beginning Wednesday morning) illustrates the vertically integrated smoke, or the total smoke, in the atmosphere by concentration. The brighter colors signify higher concentrations of the smoke. As to no surprise, most of it is in the West. Downstream to the East, the smoke moderates as it moves farther from the source.

Notice how every state in the contiguous US is forecast to experiment smoke from these western wildfires this Wednesday. That is remarkable and very unusual.

The higher concentrations correlate well with the lesser air quality. On early Wednesday morning, one part of California in the central Sierra Nevada had air quality so bad, it reached the “Hazardous” category on the Air Quality Index, the highest or worst category. According to AirNow, this category means, “Health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.”

Elsewhere in the West, air quality will generally be at “Moderate,” meaning, “Air quality is acceptable; however, for some pollutants there may be a moderate health concern for a very small number of people who are unusually sensitive to air pollution.”

The expansive smoke can even be seen from space. Below is a gallery for images captured from different weather satellites and the International Space Station over the past week.

Carr and Ferguson fires captured by European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst on August 3 from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
California wildfires on August 6. Credit: Alexander Gerst
California wildfires on August 6. Credit: Alexander Gerst
On August 2, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this natural image of the Carr Fire and Mendocino Complex. Credit: NASA


Jackson is Head of Content at WeatherOptics and produces several forecasts and manages all social media platforms. Previously, Jackson forecasted local weather for southwestern Connecticut, founding his website, Jackson's Weather, in the March of 2015. He is currently studying Meteorology and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Miami.

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