Satellite images show what happens when wildfire smoke meets hurricanes

(Images courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory)

The catastrophic wildfires on the West Coast have generated an enormous amount of smoke that have darkened skies across the Bay Area and ruined the air quality around other cities. Prevailing winds have carried that smoke across the United States where it ran into another hazard — Hurricanes Paulette and Sally.

Over a three-day span shown in these images that started Sept. 14, the hurricanes initially kept the skies on the East Coast clear, but as the smoke moved forward, Paulette blocked the smoke and kept it in the Northeast, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory. By Sept. 16, the storm system dissipated and the plume moved farther into the Atlantic. Elsewhere, the NASA images show Hurricane Sally pushing the smoke northward as it flooded the Southeastern United States.

The NASA images above show an abundance and distribution of black carbon. NASA says it is a type of aerosol found in wildfire smoke and the darker colors show higher density of the substance. Although the smoke swept through the eastern seaboard, the air quality wasn’t as bad compared to the West Coast because the plumes were “traveling high in the atmosphere,” according to the NASA observatory post.

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