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Wildfires out west bring smoke across continent, likely impacted a tropical system

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 6:38 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The wildfires in the western United States in September have burned hundreds of thousands of acres of land and forests and killed at least 35 people. But all of that smoke from the fire isn’t staying in one place.

The smoke from the fires can go high into the Earth’s atmosphere, and get picked up by upper-level winds. The winds, at that latitude, travel mainly from west to east, and can get carried throughout North America (and maybe farther depending on the patterns). The smoke usually stays in the upper levels, but it can create haze, dim the sun (depending on how much smoke is in the air), and even drop high temperatures slightly.

But the smoke can do something else: Disrupt tropical cyclones. The dry air and smoke on the western side of Tropical Storm Beta wrapped around the center of the storm Sunday, likely fizzling out the convection near the center.

Models from NASA and NOAA also showed the smoke getting into a mid-latitude cyclone in southern Canada on Monday, but not so thick and concentrated.

The problem is that it’s likely that the fires (and, therefore, the smoke) will become more of a problem in the future. As the planet continues to warm because of excess release of greenhouse gasses, the conditions for wildfires (drier and hotter weather patterns, for instance) will continue to be exacerbated. This will increase negative impacts on health, local economies, ecosystems, and agriculture.

In other words, there may be more smoke with that fire in the future.

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