Smoke from the wildfires traveled to the city from Oregon.
Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images
Here’s something that I, an Angeleno, never thought I would do on a visit to New York: when I woke up this morning to the flat light of a post-apocalyptic orange sun swaying in a sky of putty color I turned on the air- quality application that I use at home. As I had guessed: haze from wildfires in the West once again swept across the continent – a distance of nearly 3,000 miles – to cover the eastern United States
On the Air Quality Index, the Environmental Protection Agency’s method of reporting air pollutants, parts of Manhattan are currently reporting numbers above 175, placing them in the “unhealthy” red zone. Upstate, the air is even worse; parts of Syracuse display AQI readings as high as 261, earning them a purple indicator color for “very unhealthy.” All of that smoke is coming from 80 large fires that currently burn over a million acres across the West, which continue to set all-time heat records. The Oregon Bootleg Fire, for example, burned an area half the size of Rhode Island, and thanks to the smoke from that fire, Providence is currently posting AQI readings of 126. The fires will not be extinguished anytime soon ; The Bootleg Fire is expected to burn until Thanksgiving, although climate change may sweep smoke from the local sky.
As wildfire smoke monitoring has become a ritual for people living in the western United States, it may be time for New Yorkers to familiarize themselves with another set of data in their country. everyday life. Although most weather apps now display the current AQI, I highly recommend downloading a dedicated air quality app – some of my California tested recommendations include AirVisual, AirNow, and PurpleAir – which displays current readings as well. than forecasts. When the AQI hits the threat level of orange and beyond, it’s best to stay indoors, avoid outdoor exercise, and wear a mask (again). You can also use an air purifier if you have one, although your air conditioning unit will do the trick if you keep the filter clean. Aside from the long term health effects that this type of pollution causes – the tiny soot particles known as PM2.5 get lodged in your lungs causing a multitude of bad impacts – the short term effects may include wheezing, itchy eyes, a runny nose, and dull, crawling headaches. But a handful of smoky summer sunrises isn’t the only reason to keep such an app handy. Since hot days can trigger a chemical reaction creating ground-level ozone pollution from vehicle exhaust, it doesn’t take a wildfire to turn the AQI red in a world. where one in five deaths worldwide is directly attributable to the combustion of fossil fuels. . Which, of course, also intensifies the heat waves and droughts that make forest fires more dangerous, more destructive and more deadly.
The last time New York saw a sky like this – it was at the end of September last year, by the way, just to give you an idea of how much worse this summer is likely to be. – smoke remained relatively high in the atmosphere. Today, however, the haze goes go much lower, which means that we at street level are at a much higher risk of inhaling everything. On the bright side (orange), the sunset is likely to be spectacular. Just look at it from inside your apartment.