The only breakthrough that much of America can hope for anytime soon breathtaking, dangerous smoke Out of fire-stricken Canada are brief bouts of sweaty heat and humidity brought on by a southern heatwave already proven deadlysay forecasters.
And then the smoke will likely return to the Midwest and East.
That’s because neither the 235 runaway Canadian wildfires, nor the entrenched weather pattern responsible for this mishmash of meteorological diseases, show any signs of abating for the next week or longer, say meteorologists at the National’s Weather Prediction Center Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
First, the gridlocked weather pattern made for unusually hot and dry conditions in Canada that hit record highs. A situation was then created where the only relief comes when low pressure areas sweep through, meaning areas get smoky air from the north on one side and muggy air from the south on the other.
smoke or heat. “Choose your poison,” said Greg Carbin, chief of the prognosis center. “Conditions will not be very favorable.”
“As long as the fires keep burning up there, that’s going to be a problem for us,” Carbin said. “As long as there is something to burn, there will also be smoke to deal with.”
Take St Louis. The city had two days of unhealthy air on Tuesday and Wednesday, but on Thursday “they will see an improvement in air quality due to the very hot and humid heat,” Weather Forecast Center meteorologist Bryan Jackson said. The forecast is based on perceived temperatures of 109 degrees (42.8 degrees Celsius) – with 101 degrees (38.3 degrees Celsius) of heat and oppressive humidity.
On Wednesday, the low was parked over New England and with counterclockwise winds blowing, areas to the west — like Chicago and the Midwest — get smoky winds from the north, while areas east of the low get hot southerly winds, Jackson said.
As this depression continues to spread and another sweeps across the central Great Plains and Lake Superior, the Midwest is experiencing temporary relief, Jackson said. But if the vacuum continues, the smoke will come back.
“We’ve got this air carousel that circles the Midwest and every now and then brings the smoke right down to the city you live in,” said University of Chicago atmospheric scientist Liz Moyer. “And as the fires continue, expect to see bad air days at regular intervals and the only relief will be either when the fires die out or when the weather pattern eases.”
The stuck weather pattern is “terribly unusual,” said NOAA’s Carbin, who had to look back in the records to 1980 to find anything remotely similar. “What fascinates me is perseverance.”
Why does the weather pattern get stuck? The seems to be more common — and some scientists suspect so Man-made climate change causing more weather stall situations. Moyer and Carbin said it’s too early to say if that’s the case.
But Carbin and Canadian fire researcher Mike Flannigan said the Canadian fires are a clear climate signal. And they said those fires aren’t likely to go out anytime soon because the forecast isn’t likely to change.
Fires are burning in almost every province in Canada. A record 30,000 square miles (80,000 square kilometers) burned, an area almost the size of South Carolina. according to the Canadian government.
And fire season in Canada doesn’t typically start until July.
“It’s been a crazy, crazy year. It’s unusual for the whole country to be on fire,” said Flannigan, a professor at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia. “It’s usually regional… not all at once.”
Hotter-than-normal and drier air made for ideal fire weather, Flannigan said. Warmer weather from climate change causes the atmosphere to remove more moisture from plants, making them more likely to catch fire, burn faster, and get hotter.
“Fire is always about extremes,” he said.
And where there’s fire, there’s smoke.
Both high heat and smoky conditions are stressors on the body and can pose potential human health challenges, said Ed Avol, professor emeritus at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.
But Avol added that while the haze of wildfire smoke gives a visual cue to stay indoors, even when the sky is clear there can be hidden dangers from breathing in harmful pollutants like ozone. He also pointed out that there can be changes in air chemistry downwind of wildfire smoke that can have additional and less well-understood effects on the body.
It’s still only June. The seasonal forecast for the rest of Canada’s summer is “hot and mostly dry,” and that’s not good for putting out fires, Flannigan said. “It’s been a crazy year and I’m not sure where it’s going to end.”
Associated Press reporter Melina Walling contributed from Chicago.
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