Smoke from California’s wildfires is drifting across the US to New York — and it’s making pretty sunsets

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  • California’s recent wildfires have killed at least 82 people. Nearly 700 others are still missing.
  • Smoke from the blazes is billowing high into the atmosphere and drifting across the US.
  • California’s smoky haze has created "smokestorm" conditions, but fine particles have spread as far as New York City.
  • The hazy smoke has changed the appearance of sunsets and sunrises, making them more orange in color.

The recent scourge of wildfires in California has claimed the lives of at least 82 people, and authorities report that nearly 700 others are still missing.

The Camp Fire in Northern California has proven to be the deadliest in the state’s history, killing 79 people. The blaze has scorched more than 150,000 acres of land, destroyed more than 15,000 buildings, and is about 70% contained as of Tuesday.

Read more: Satellite images show how the Camp Fire destroyed entire towns and killed dozens of people

But smoke from the expansive fire, along with contributions from the almost extinguished Woolsey Fire outside of LA, has not remained in California. Large clouds of fine particles have drifted to nearby states like Washington, creating hazy, smoky conditions that one meteorologist in Seattle called a "smokestorm."

Even finer particles of smoke have joined high-altitude jet streams and, as of Monday evening, made their way across the continental US. They even reached New York City, according to an experimental NOAA forecasting tool called High Resolution Rapid Refresh.

california smoke drift united states america forecast noaa earth system research laboratory hrrr

The image above shows a 4 p.m. EST forecast for yesterday, right before the sun set in eastern New York.

Specifically, the forecast showed levels of "vertically integrated smoke": fine smoke particles dispersed throughout various layers of the atmosphere.

"Wow. I knew tonight’s sunset over New York City seemed different, and I should’ve realized!" Kathryn Prociv, a meteorologist and producer for NBC News and the Today Show, tweeted on Monday. "Wildfire smoke is in the air, all the way from California."

Prociv included a photo of a sunset that she took from the Hudson River, as well as a NOAA forecast.

Her image is hazier and more orange-colored than is typical for the city. This may be because the smoke particles that wafted over the US — like other fine air pollutants — are as small as 2.5 microns, or about the size of a single microbe. Such particles can absorb bluer colors of sunlight and affect the look and color of sunrises and sunsets. They can also cool down air temperatures.

The animated map below shows the NOAA’s 36-hour smoke forecast as of Tuesday afternoon.

This forecast shows a thinning trail of smoke drifting across the US through Wednesday. That diminishing trend should continue, since California’s wildfires are increasingly being contained (and spouting less soot into the air).

However, far-flung smoky sunsets caused by wildfires may become a "new abnormal" for the US as climate change exacerbates dry, fire-spreading conditions in California and other states.

SEE ALSO: Here’s what Earth might look like in 100 years — if we’re lucky

DON’T MISS: California’s Camp Fire has melted cars and reduced bodies to bone — these images show the horror of the state’s deadliest fire ever

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from SAI