Wildfires, Smoke And COVID

July 23, 2021

(Illustration  Statue of Liberty and a part of New York harbor a couple of days ago — image found here).

Near-clear skies and getting warmer this mid-day Friday here in California’s Central Valley — we’re supposed to hit triple figures by late afternoon, which is nothing new.
Our good fortune so far is the air around these parts hasn’t been tainted by the smoke off wildfires burning across the Western US (closest big fire to here is about three hours SW) — reportedly, as of this morning, and adding 13 new fires reported yesterday, the national total is now 83 large fires and complexes, burning nearly two million acres. And the situation is far from over. The weird is it’s so early in the year for shit like this to be happening.

These fires are atrocious and have enhanced powers — a good look at the situation at the Guardian this afternoon:

Some of these fires are now so intense and large they can create their own weather systems, including fire tornadoes, clouds and other weird phenomena — including smoky haze that has reached New York City, 3,000 miles from where the fires started.
New York City now has some of the world’s worst air quality, prompting state officials to issue an alert for residents with underlying health conditions, such as asthma, to avoid the outdoors.

The clouds can create smoke updrafts called pyrocumulus clouds – which happens when hot air rises, leaving a vacuum behind that the fire rushes in to fill.
Some researchers have compared them to volcanic eruptions. They often look like giant, dirty-colored thunderheads that sit atop a massive column of smoke from a wildfire.

Over the past two weeks, researchers have observed pyrocumulonimbus plumes generated by fires in Alberta, Canada, Montana and Oregon.
These fire-induced thunderclouds can inject massive amounts of smoke particles into the upper atmosphere, and produce lightning, hail, but little-if-any actual precipitation.
The Bootleg fire started producing its own lightning last week, according to the National Weather Service.

The paradigm for fire and weather is now flipped on its head — and the fires are starting to change the weather around them.

“The [Bootleg] fire is so large and generating so much energy and extreme heat that it’s changing the weather,” Marcus Kauffman, a spokesman for the state forestry department, told the New York Times.
“Normally the weather predicts what the fire will do. In this case, the fire is predicting what the weather will do.”

A most-noted health question is what is in that smoke? Nothing good for you (h/t tweet Susie):

An examination of what kind of shit is burned into the smoke from these wildfires was found yesterday at the LA Times, which along with the history of past California wildfires, and wildfires in general, was this bit about fires and COVID — some snips:

Researchers are, however, beginning to examine the “negative synergy” between wildfire smoke and COVID-19, he said, noting that the coronavirus can “compromise people’s respiratory systems and make people more susceptible to the impacts of particulate and smoke.”

At least one group of scientists at the Desert Research Institute in Nevada already has found a correlation.
A study published this month in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology found that wildfire smoke may greatly increase susceptibility to COVID-19.

Beyond the virus shit, the smoke is gathering all kinds of toxic stuff:

And as wildfires become larger, more frequent and move closer to communities, experts said it is increasingly important for people to be aware of what the blazes are belching.

“You’re not only now burning wood,” said Peter DeCarlo, an associate professor of environmental health and engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
“You’re burning heavy metals, and you’re burning plastics and other things that wouldn’t burn just in a forest fire. Those add additional chemicals, many of which we know are toxic and noxious, to what’s already bad from wildfire smoke.”

And thanks to extremely parched vegetation, fires also are burning hotter and with greater intensity, which can enable smoke to travel farther, he said.
“How intense the fire is burning determines how high in the atmosphere [the smoke] gets,” DeCarlo said.
“The higher it gets in the atmosphere, the easier it is to transport long distances.”

Say, New York City … a loop of ruin…

(Illustration out front: Salvador Dali’s ‘Hell Canto 2: Giants,’ found here).

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