Fire transforms everything in its path: into gases, sometimes toxic, and into airborne particles large enough to start new fires and tiny enough to settle deep into the smallest folds of our lungs. And one effect of climate change is the growing health threat from more wildfire smoke.
You don’t have to be close to the fires to be seeing or breathing their smoke. Far from it. Check the visually fascinating maps from the EPA’s Airnow.gov (with its color-coded air quality markers): Your hazy sky or itchy eyes may be signs of wildfire thousands of miles away. Certainly this is the case right now, in August 2018, as you can see in this map-rich story from the Weather Channel and this NASA blog.
Of course, if you are closer to the fires, you know you’re in trouble, as vividly evoked by this NPR piece about California, where “breathing is a chore.”
In some parts of the country and in some seasons, the most harmful particles from wildfires are reversing years of improved air quality. And the problem is not limited to North America, as this reasonably readable scientific article about the “haze” in equatorial Asia demonstrates.
Next up: good pieces about wildfires themselves, and their ties to climate change.
This series is curated and written by retired Colorado State University English professor and close climate change watcher SueEllen Campbell of Colorado. Use the Twitter hashtag #ICYMIclimate to flag works you think warrant attention, or send an e-mail to ICYMI@yaleclimateconnections.org any time. Let us hear from you.