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Smoke from the US West Coast wildfires has reached Europe

The wildfires devastating California and other parts o...

Posted: Sep 16, 2020 6:32 AM

The wildfires devastating California and other parts of the western United States are the worst in 18 years, with vast amounts of thick smoke affecting large areas of the North America and even reaching Northern Europe, scientists said Wednesday.

The fires, which began in mid-August in California and Colorado, are "significantly more intense than the 2003-2019 average for the whole country and the affected states," according to data from Europe's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

Oregon and Washington have also seen serious wildfires break out since the beginning of September, following recent hot, dry and windy conditions.

Scientists from CAMS, which is part of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, use satellite observations to track wildfire activity around the world. Fire activity this year in the United States has been "tens to hundreds of times more intense" than the average from 2003 to 2019 across the country as a whole, as well as in several affected states, they say.

"The scale and magnitude of these fires are at a level much higher than in any of the 18 years that our monitoring data covers, since 2003," said Mark Parrington, a senior scientist for CAMS.

"A good indicator of smoke thickness is aerosol optical depth (AOD). Over the western US, AOD levels have been observed to reach values of seven or above; to put this into perspective, an AOD measurement of one already implies very hazy conditions and potentially poor air quality."

While the heaviest smoke remained off the West Coast over the Pacific Ocean for several days, according to CAMS data and satellite images, it began to blow back across the United States and Canada in recent days.

Smoke traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to Northern Europe at the end of last week, and is forecast to do so again in the coming days, CAMS said.

"The fact that these fires are emitting so much pollution into the atmosphere that we can still see thick smoke over 8,000 kilometres (5,000 miles) away reflects just how devastating they have been in their magnitude and duration," said Parrington.

The US National Interagency Fire Center said Tuesday that at least 87 wildfires were burning in 11 states. Many are filling the sky with choking smoke and pushing firefighters beyond exhaustion.

At least 25 people have died in the California wildfires since August. Ten people were dead and 22 missing in Oregon as of Tuesday.

The fires have already emitted an estimated 21.7 megatonnes of carbon in California, 7.3 megatonnes of carbon in Oregon and 1.4 megatonnes of carbon in Washington, according to CAMS.

Parts of the West Coast now have the worst air quality in the world, according to the air quality monitoring group IQAir.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 353368

Reported Deaths: 4226
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah55417699
Washington38425317
Marion36469448
Clackamas29440306
Lane27431300
Jackson22837305
Deschutes19958125
Umatilla14358145
Linn12672126
Douglas11962243
Josephine9307195
Yamhill8621111
Klamath7846116
Polk724881
Malheur555376
Benton541931
Coos495494
Columbia377043
Jefferson367752
Union316548
Lincoln315438
Wasco284840
Crook281846
Clatsop242029
Baker199928
Tillamook195529
Hood River190537
Morrow183423
Curry179425
Harney111926
Grant99512
Lake91012
Wallowa67612
Gilliam1524
Sherman1483
Wheeler1121
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4830872

Reported Deaths: 70874
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles147942126446
Riverside3706085008
San Diego3652534170
San Bernardino3576395606
Orange3235695531
Sacramento1587852294
Fresno1453782063
Kern1452271616
Santa Clara1451271895
Alameda1203661384
San Joaquin1023411721
Ventura1008491165
Contra Costa99712995
Stanislaus857501325
Tulare79627958
San Francisco54266644
San Mateo54023622
Monterey50792583
Solano45934339
Santa Barbara45047522
Merced42089579
Sonoma40865402
Placer39157420
Imperial35832764
Kings32649320
San Luis Obispo29837331
Madera23720285
Butte23673265
Shasta23574349
Santa Cruz20943218
Yolo20266248
Marin17665244
El Dorado17097149
Sutter13861172
Napa12864100
Yuba1001982
Tehama9433107
Humboldt9180107
Nevada911690
Mendocino758487
Lassen753046
San Benito741672
Tuolumne682889
Lake6583104
Amador540764
Siskiyou446442
Glenn434232
Calaveras386580
Del Norte357441
Colusa303018
Inyo205540
Mono16643
Plumas16126
Mariposa132315
Trinity86911
Modoc6755
Unassigned2120
Sierra1820
Alpine1030
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