A 1,000-Mile-Long Sheet of Wildfire Smoke Suffocates U.S. West

The U.S. West Coast is enduring some of the most dangerous air in the world as a 1,000-mile-long sheet of wildfire smoke hangs over the region.

The air quality index in Eugene, Oregon, neared the ceiling set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday. Portland and Seattle had the worst air quality among major world cities, according toIQAir AirVisual pollution data.

$69.​9B Renewable power investment worldwide in Q2 2020 -39.​80% Today’s arctic ice area vs. historic average

50,​820 Million metric tons of greenhouse emissions, most recent annual data 31% Carbon-free net power in the U.S., most recent data 0 6 5 4 3 2 0 3 2 1 0 9 0 4 3 2 1 0 .0 9 8 7 6 5 0 6 5 4 3 2 0 0 9 8 7 6 0 8 7 6 5 4 0 5 4 3 2 1 0 3 2 1 0 9 Parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere +0.​92° C Jul. 2020 increase in global temperature vs. 1900s average

Dubai, United Arab EmiratesMost polluted air today, in sensor range 0 5 4 3 2 1 ,0 3 2 1 0 9 0 5 4 3 2 1 0 0 9 8 7 6 Soccer pitches of forest lost this hour, most recent data

The gloom will last into the weekend before a Pacific storm bringing rain to coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest and winds in Northern California may push the smoke eastward, according to theNational Weather Service.

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“We’re expecting the smoke to stick around at least through Saturday,” said Hannah Chandler-Cooley, a weather service meteorologist in Sacramento. “The winds will shift so they will be from the west and we could start seeing some of that smoke being pushed east.”

The dangerous air quality is the product of record-breaking fires raging across the West that have consumed more than 3.1 million acres across California and at least 1.2 million acres in Washington and Oregon.

While the weather system might move the smoke, there’s also the risk that winds could fan the fires further, especially over the Sierra Nevada mountains, Chandler-Cooley said.

Earlier this week, a wind storm prompted utilities in California and Oregon to proactively shut down power lines lest they be toppled by high winds and ignite new blazes.

“The moisture is good for fire suppression, but the winds are not,” Chandler-Cooley said.

There are no critical fire weather conditions present across the U.S. and none forecast through the weekend, the U.S. Storm Prediction Center said. However, low humidity in many areas of the West and high temperatures mean the risk of fire spreading will remain.

The highest chances for rain will be in Oregon and Washington, said Bryan Jackson, a meteorologist with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center.

Unhealthy air is stretching from the Canadian border north of Seattle south to San Jose and Modesto, California, according to AirNow, an EPA air monitoring website.

Air quality alerts have been posted for all of Washington and Oregon, as well as California’s Central Valley.

Temperatures are forecast to reach 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 Celsius) under smoky skies in Los Angeles Friday, and 86 in Sacramento under hazy skies, the weather service said. The smoke and haze has blocked the sun enough to keep temperatures low in many areas, with highs only in the 60s possible in Oakland and San Francisco.

— With assistance by David R Baker, Mark Chediak, and Brian Eckhouse

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