Hazardous Air From Wildfire Smoke Chokes Northeastern States

The northeastern U.S. experienced another day with some of the worst air quality recorded in the region, caused by large plumes of smoke emanating from widespread wildfires in Canada.

Thursday, the Canadian province of Quebec, where the wildfires broke out, reported 136 active fires that have charred an area approximately the size of Delaware.

Black carbon particles, or soot, have been moving across eastern portions of Canada and the U.S. from June 3.

Polluted air originated from a spike in wildfire activity in Quebec in early June. Then, a weather system pushed smoke from those blazes toward northeast and mid-Atlantic states, bringing hazardous air to densely populated regions of the U.S.

The black carbon data, collected from NASA’s GEOS forward processing (GEOS-FP) model, shows that he fine particulate matter in this pollution is small enough to enter the lungs and can lead to health problems.

Thursday, air quality monitors in parts of Pennsylvania recorded levels deemed “hazardous” (code maroon) on the EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI) scale. The AQI for large cities such as New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. registered in the “very unhealthy” range (code purple).

In addition to causing conditions detrimental to people’s health, the poor air quality and low visibility caused flight delays at major airports in New York City, Newark, and Philadelphia.

FAA issued a ground stop Thursday on all flights bound for New York City’s LaGuardia Airport due to poor visibility.

Schools across the East Coast canceled outdoor activities. Residents in the region, especially children, the elderly or those with respiratory conditions, have been urged to stay indoors.

After sustained smoky conditions in the northeast and mid-Atlantic, shifting winds may send the worst pollution further west in coming days, according to the National Weather Service.

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