US Air Quality Map Shows ‘Unhealthy’ Areas Amid Wildfires


States across the U.S. are dealing with unhealthy air quality alerts as wildfires rage in California, the Pacific Northwest and Louisiana, among other places.

Wildfires across the U.S. and Canada have affected air quality for months and contributed to smoky conditions and air quality warnings in the Northern and Eastern U.S. earlier this summer. Now Western and Southern regions of the U.S. are facing worsened air quality from fires.

An interactive air quality map by Air Now shows some of the states with the worst air quality as of late morning on Wednesday. Included is San Francisco, which ranked among the worst places for air quality on Wednesday as smoke from wildfires in Northern California and Oregon descended on the Bay Area.

Bidwell Bar Bridge is surrounded by fire in Lake Oroville during the Bear Fire on September 9, 2020, in Oroville, California. Wildfires in Oregon have contributed to smoky conditions in San Francisco, and several areas across the U.S. are suffering from unhealthy air quality.

The map identified one area in northwestern California, near Crescent City, as having “very unhealthy” air quality. Several other areas, including those around San Jose and Sequoia National Park, have “unhealthy” air quality.

Much of Central California was classified as displaying air quality that was “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” as did parts of North Dakota. “Moderate” air quality was identified in many areas across the U.S., including throughout California, Texas, Louisiana, Montana, North and South Dakota, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and much of the Midwest.

The National Weather Service (NWS) station in San Francisco attributed the smoky conditions to the Anvil Fire in southwest Oregon—which currently ranges across 9,023 acres—as well as smaller wildfires in northwestern California, the smoke from which was being carried on northerly winds.

Several other massive fires continue to burn across the U.S., including the Tiger Island Fire in western Louisiana that prompted evacuations in late August. As of Wednesday, the fire had burned 31,000 acres and was 75 percent contained, according to the Fire Weather & Avalanche Center’s webpage. The Deep Fire near California’s Shasta-Trinity National Forest had burned 4,000 acres and was 0 percent contained, among many other fires that continue to burn nationwide.

AccuWeather meteorologist Alex DaSilva told Newsweek that the smoke might disperse in the coming days as a storm system arrives in the Northwest.

“The winds might pick up a little bit and the smoke might disperse across California and some of those areas,” DaSilva said, adding that the wind will blow the smoke northeast toward Canada. “It will be mostly beneficial, but the fire danger in some areas may be a little bit elevated.”

Data acquired by Newsweek shows that although there are more wildfires this year than last, the number of acres burned is much less.

Several factors contributed to the change. A wet winter in California saturated dry soil, and meteorologists told Newsweek that the state’s wildfire risk in the spring and early summer months was extremely low. However, the excessive rain also spurred a super bloom—prolific swaths of wildflowers and other small plants—for the first time since 2019, providing ample short-term fuel for any wildfires that began in California.


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