An unusual amount of smoke from wildfires has spread across hundreds of miles.
After more than 10,000 lightning strikes in 72 hours, hundreds of wildfires erupted across California, particularly in the northern part of the state. The fires, which have been exacerbated by a historic heatwave, have burned more than 300,000 acres (1,200 square kilometers) in the state since August 16, 2020. Smoke has spread across large swaths of the western United States and the Pacific Ocean.
In the morning of August 20, 2020 in California, the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite 17 (GOES-17) captured a natural-color image of the smoke (above). GOES-17 is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); NASA helps develop and launch the GOES series of satellites.
Wildfire smoke is dangerous because it carries tiny, harmful particles into the air. Known as aerosols, these solid and liquid particles can degrade air quality and cause breathing and lung problems, particularly for people with asthma. Long-term exposure to air pollution can also contribute to heart disease and cancer.
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Image via NASA Earth Observatory