Historic wildfires across the West Coast are pumping up a record amount of air pollution – with smoke bands spreading at least 5,000 miles across Europe, data show.
The dense smoke cover – already blamed for that of this week misty skies over New York – arrived in Britain and other parts of northern Europe last week and is expected to return in the coming days after a short break, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).
The data show that West Coast fires have been “tens to hundreds of times more intense” than the national average in the 18 years the agency has been monitoring the fires, he said.
They have “already emitted a lot more carbon in 2020 than in any other year” since records began, CAMS said – even if it’s just the start of the peak fire season.
“The scale and magnitude of these outbreaks are at a much higher level than in any of the 18 years that our monitoring data cover,” said CAM Parrient Senior Scientist Mark Parrington.
“The fact that these fires emit so much pollution into the atmosphere that we can still see thick smoke above them. [5,000 miles] far from reflecting how devastating they have been in their magnitude and duration. ”
Parrington said the European agency uses optical aerosol depth (AOD) to measure the amount of blocked sunlight.
“In the western United States, ODA levels have been observed to reach values of seven or more,” he said. “To put this in perspective, an AOD measurement of one already involves very nebulous conditions and a potentially poor air quality.”
The Swiss air quality monitoring group IQAir said the four main cities on the West Coast that are on fire – Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco – are now all in top 10 worst in the world for contamination and air quality.
California has suffered eight of the 10 largest fires in the state’s history in the last decade – with 2020 seeing the worst, the Los Angeles Times noted.
The newspaper said the fire season usually culminates in the fall, meaning the record year can even get worse.
“I’ve been in this for 23 years, and by far this is the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Justin Silvera, a 43-year-old battalion leader with Cal Fire whose men work 64 hours a day in a stretch.
“There are never enough resources,” said Silvera, one of nearly 17,000 firefighters in California. “We can’t count on one before another erupts.”
Andy Stahl, a foreigner who leads the Oregon-based defense group Employees of the Forest Service for Environmental Ethics, compared the efforts trying to plant some of the most destructive flames to “dropping a bucket of water on an atomic bomb “.
The fires are raging even after California alone has spent $ 529 million since July 1 on the fires, Cal Fire officials said.
“More crews, more air tanks, more engines and bulldozers can’t even overcome this powerful force of nature,” said Tim Ingalsbee, a member of the United Fire Defense Group for Safety, Ethics and Ecology.
“The crews are beaten, tired and scattered, and we’re just halfway through the traditional fire season.”
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