Jul 14, 2021 - Science

Wildfire smoke congests skies across U.S. West, prompting air quality warnings

Smoke rises from the Beckwourth complex fire in Nevada. Photo: Ty O'Neil/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Smoke rises from the Beckwourth complex fire in Nevada. Photo: Ty O'Neil/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Smoke from wildfires burning across the West has clogged skies in the U.S. and Canada and prompted air quality warnings in several states, the National Weather Service (NWS) said Wednesday.

Driving the news: Many of the wildfires started amid an unprecedented heatwave driven by human-caused climate change. The fires have ripped across the already drought-stricken West, burning more than one million acres.

State of play: There are currently 68 wildfires burning across 12 states, the National Interagency Fire Center said Wednesday.

  • Dozens of fires are also burning across Canada.
  • Since June 1, at least 67 weather stations have recorded temperatures that either tied or broke all-time heat records, per the NWS.

The big picture: On Wednesday the NWS issued air quality warnings due to wildfire smoke to parts of Washington, Idaho, Minnesota, Colorado, Oregon.

  • "Thick density smoke" also covers California, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, and parts of New Mexico and Texas, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • In states such as Minnesota and North Dakota, the poor air quality is being driven by crossover smoke from the Canadian fires, AP reports.
  • "We expect more acres to burn. We expect more smoke," Andrew Wineke, communications manager at the Washington State Department of Ecology, told local news.
  • Satellite imagery on Wednesday evening showed smoke from the North American fires moving over southern Greenland and the North Atlantic.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information.

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