Smoke from the wildfires that have devastated California for weeks has stretched some 3,000 miles to East Coast cities. The Weather Channel reported this week that the haze was expected to linger through Wednesday before an arctic chill descends on the Northeast over the Thanksgiving holiday.
While pictures shared on social media captured a colorful hazy sunset, reports confirmed that smoke over cities like New York City and DC had traveled from the west. Meteorologist Gary Szatkowski shared a forecast map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association on Twitter on Monday that captured the smoke plume moving across the United States.
Others confirmed the observation, with NBC News meteorologist Kathryn Prociv on Monday tweeting: “Wow. I knew tonight’s sunset over New York City seemed different, and I should’ve realized! Wildfire smoke is in the air, all the way from California.”
Reports of intensified sunsets following wildfires are common. The Washington Post noted that this phenomenon results from the way light interacts with smoke particles in the upper atmosphere.
Smoke is made up of tiny particles from wildfires, which can provide more points for light to bounce off and scatter. This leads to the enhancement of the red and orange hues you see. A deck of clouds near the horizon also has this effect, allowing the sun’s rays to reflect off the clouds and to our eyes.
California now has some of the most toxic air on the planet as the result of the wildfires, and thousands have been left homeless because of their destruction. At least 83 people are dead in the Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history.
The Camp Fire had burned more than 153,000 acres and 13,000 homes as of Wednesday evening, with nearly 5,000 other structures lost in the blaze. Hundreds of people are still unaccounted for following the fire that started three weeks ago, and fears are currently mounting that the process of locating victim’s remains will be complicated by possible flooding from incoming storms.