The two deadly wildfires tearing through Northern and Southern California are so massive that their smoke could be visible in New England this week, officials said.
Satellite maps from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show “vertically integrated smoke” bellowing from a large swath of California before getting pushed out to the Pacific Ocean by the Santa Ana winds. But some of the smoke, especially the particles that reach 20,000 to 30,000 feet of elevation, is being swept toward the Northeast, said Bill Simpson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service.
Those smoke particles, which cling onto moisture in the air, travel across the country in a jet stream above the clouds, eventually making their way to New England. By the time the smoke reaches the East Coast, it tends to be in the form of a thin layer of haze, Simpson said.
“In theory, you’d see just a little bit of milkiness up in the sky and you would notice it around sunrise and sunset,” he said. “Sometimes, during sunset, smoke in the atmosphere makes the sun look a little bit more orange.”
But the smoke, which was expected to enter the region late Monday morning, will likely be hidden, as clouds and rainy weather move into parts of New England and stay in the area through Tuesday, Simpson said.
Any smoke that lingers through the end of the week will probably also be hidden, as more rain — and maybe even snow — sweep through the region. There’s also a chance that the jet stream carries the smoke just south of New England, Simpson said.
“It all depends on what the upper air patterns are doing,” he said.
It’s not unusual for Western wildfire smoke to reach New England. In August, weather observers at the Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire reported seeing smoke from fires in California, Oregon, and British Columbia.
The smoke shouldn’t have any impact on people’s health or on the local weather, Simpson said.
The Camp Fire in Northern California and the Woolsey Fire in Southern California have killed more than 30 people combined, and hundreds of thousands have had to abandon their homes.