Residents of the U.S. Pacific Northwest this week are breathing heavily polluted air, as wildfires blankets the region.
Both Seattle and Portland were among the U.S. cities with the worst air quality this week, Reuters reported. The sky across Seattle was especially brown and murky, and the sun barely peaked through the smog. A tweet from Seattle’s National Weather Service showed a skyline draped in an ominous gray veil.
Residents were urged to wear their masks outdoors and to avoid spending too much time outside to protect themselves from the worst of the smoke, Axios reported. A spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality told Reuters that people were using N95 respirators for protection. Air quality advisories were in effect for Seattle until Friday morning, per the National Weather Service.
This isn’t the first time fires have caused abysmal air quality in cities out West. This past September, Seattle had the worst air quality out of any city in the world, and Portland wasn’t far behind, ranking third globally after Lahore, Pakistan at the time. And just like this week, the smog in the Pacific Northwest last month came from the wildfires burning across the region.
Climate change has been fueling especially dry and hot conditions, which in turn lead to more wildfires. The smoke doesn’t just stay in one area. Excessive wildfire smoke for one coast this week could lead to bad air quality for the opposite coast in a matter of days. For example, New York City’s air quality was among the worst in the world last July after wildfire smoke from the West Coast traveled thousands of miles. Some of the smoke traveled as far as Greenland.
Rain is expected across some of the Pacific Northwest today and into the weekend, which could alleviate the smoky and dry conditions.