Mental Floss

Smoke From the West Coast Wildfires Has Been Reported As Far Away As the Netherlands

Jake Rossen
Smoke fills the sky on Harbor Island in Seattle, Washington on September 12, 2020.
Smoke fills the sky on Harbor Island in Seattle, Washington on September 12, 2020. / Lindsey Wasson, Getty Images

For those not living in California, Oregon, or Washington, the raging wildfires in those states that have consumed more than 4 million acres might seem slightly abstract. But over the past week, the intensity of those blazes, coupled with specific weather patterns, has made it possible for people in New York—and even as far away in Europe as the Netherlands—to look up and see smoke in the skies.

According to both NASA and the National Weather Service, jet streams have allowed the smoke to migrate across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, with the plume strong enough to actually blot out the sun and lower the temperature by a few degrees.

Reports of the smoke have also been documented in Canada and in the Netherlands, where particles colored the sky with a greyish tint after traveling more than 5000 miles.

A cyclone that absorbed some of the smoke has moved over the Pacific Ocean, with the smoke actually visible from space.

Wildfire smoke is a serious health concern for those closest to the blaze, but traveling smoke is high enough in the atmosphere where it’s not thought to be dangerous to people on the ground. A change in wind direction, however, could eventually pull it down and impact air quality, furthering the far-reaching consequences of these historic wildfires.

[h/t Smithsonian]