The Smoke from West Coast Wildfires Is Blowing East over the U.S. — and It’s Visible from Space

NASA image of Wildfires

Thick smoke covering the western U.S. was so extensive it was “easily visible” from space, according to new satellite images captured by NASA, showing the impact wildfires there have had on the atmosphere as blazes continue to burn.

The new satellite images were captured on Sept. 9 by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA’s Terra satellite, according to the agency’s Earth Observatory. The thick smoke obscured the entire coastline and a large swath of inland California and reached into Oregon, two states that have suffered majority of the damage from wildfires for the past few weeks.

“The smoke was so thick and widespread that it was easily visible from 1.5 million kilometers (1 million miles) away from Earth,” NASA noted.

On Tuesday, air quality remained dire from California up to Washington, with many areas measuring in the 300s and 400s, which result in “health warnings of emergency conditions” if people “are exposed for 24 hours,” according to PurpleAir, which monitors air quality in real-time.

The smoke was so pervasive it started to blow east, spreading across the country and bringing potentially hazardous small particles, or aerosols, with it, according to NASA.

The smoke has swept across the continent, traveling along the northern midwest along Michigan and the Great Lakes to Rochester, N.Y., as well as southwest through Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky, to the Mid-Atlantic, CNN reported, citing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Satellite and Product Operations.

Smoke was seen as far as Virginia, creating hazy conditions in the sky, NBC News reported, and even affected the skies in New York City

At least 35 people have been killed across California, Oregon, and Washington with hundreds of thousands forced to evacuate.

So far, wildfires have burned a record more than 3.2 million acres in California alone with nearly 16,500 firefighters continuing to battle blazes on 28 different major wildfires across the state, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE.

California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom said climate change was to blame for the record-setting fire season, which has been pushed on by extreme heat waves.

Organizations like the Red Cross are accepting donations and volunteers to help with relief efforts.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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