Earthwindmap showing dangerous, cancer-causing PM2.5 particulates covering the entire western coast of America with weather conditions set to blow the particulates across the whole country eastwards.
Huge swaths of America's West Coast are ablaze or in cinders as more than 100 wildfires raged largely uncontrolled late Friday from California to Washington state and beyond, incinerating entire towns and killing at least 24 people. More than 500,000 people in Oregon - more than 10% of its population - remained under some level of evacuation protocol as fires in the state destroyed thousands of homes and burned hundreds of thousands of hectares.
The Oregon Convention Center in Portland has been transformed into a shelter for evacuees. In southern Oregon, an apocalyptic scene of burned residential subdivisions and trailer parks stretched for kilometres along a highway - a scene mirrored in parts of California, where the governor gave a blunt assessment. "This is a climate damn emergency. This is real and it's happening. This is the perfect storm," California Gov. Gavin Newsom said. "What we're experiencing right here is coming to communities all across the United States of America unless we get our act together on climate change."
More than 68,000 people are under evacuation orders in California. Thick smoke and haze blanketed much of the region, triggering health warnings and prompting officials to urge residents to remain indoors. In Oregon's most populated region, helicopters dropped water and fire retardant on two fires that threatened to merge. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Friday dozens of people are missing in Jackson and Marion counties.
In California, the largest fire in the state's history is burning in the Mendocino National Forest, about 190 kilometres northwest of Sacramento. "This is not an act of God," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways." He said the land burned in Washington in the last five days made it the state's second-worst fire season. In addition to beating back the wildfires, authorities are now challenged with fighting misinformation on social media sites that the fires were ignited by arsonists from far-right and far-left groups.
The FBI said Friday it has investigated some claims and so far has found them to be untrue. Meanwhile, meteorologists said California's wildfires are responsible for the orange glow in the sky that people across the United Kingdom woke up to on Friday. Meteorologist Simon Lee told The Telegraph, "Meteorologically speaking, in the last few days we have seen a very strong and straight, west-east, jet stream, flowing across the North Atlantic from North America to Europe, which has undoubtedly helped rapidly and coherently transport the aerosols from North America."
Climate and fire scientists have long anticipated that fires in the U.S. West would grow larger, more intense, and more dangerous. But even the most experienced among them have been at a loss for words in describing the scope and intensity of the fires burning in West Coast states in September 2020. Lightning initially triggered many of the fires, but it was unusual and extreme meteorological conditions that turned some of them into the worst conflagrations in the region in decades. Record-breaking air temperatures, periods of unusually dry air, and blasts of fierce winds—on top of serious drought in some areas—led fires to ravage forests and loft vast plumes of smoke to rarely seen heights. Credit NASA.
The worst air quality in the world covering the entire western coast