Smoke, carbon monoxide from California wildfires drifting all th - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Smoke, carbon monoxide from California wildfires drifting all the way to the East Coast

Posted: Updated: Aug 15, 2018 11:43 AM
Evacuees from Lucerne, from left, Ken Bennett with Ember Reynolds, 8, and Lisa Reynolds watch the sunset as smoke from the Ranch Fire rises into the sky at Austin Park Beach in California's Clearlake with Mount Konocti in the background. Evacuees from Lucerne, from left, Ken Bennett with Ember Reynolds, 8, and Lisa Reynolds watch the sunset as smoke from the Ranch Fire rises into the sky at Austin Park Beach in California's Clearlake with Mount Konocti in the background.

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What happens in California doesn't stay in California.

Smoke from the massive wildfires scorching the Golden State is drifting across the USA and has been reported as far east as New England, NASA said.

In addition to ash and smoke, the fires release carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, a dangerous pollutant that can persist in the air for about a month and be transported great distances.

NASA said that in recent weeks, carbon monoxide has been reported high in the atmosphere across the country; one branch is moving south toward Texas and the other is forking to the Northeast.

Fortunately, since it's so high in the atmosphere, it has little effect on the air we breathe.

The smoke hangs about a mile above East Coast cities, too high above the surface to cause any concern, AccuWeather confirmed.

However, a shift in winds or movement from the jet stream could pull that smoke closer to the ground level. Though those possibilities are unlikely, they would increase the risk of respiratory issues, AccuWeather said.

"Many people may have respiratory symptoms when breathing smoky air. The good news is that most symptoms are short-lived and resolve as smoke dissipates," said Karin Pacheco of National Jewish Health in Denver.

More: After weeks of smoke and fire, Yosemite Valley to reopen at Yosemite National Park

More: Firefighter dies battling Mendocino Complex blaze in California

More: Mendocino Complex fire becomes California's largest wildfire in history, authorities say

This year in California, nearly 5,000 wildfires have scorched almost 1,500 square miles across the state, Cal Fire said, an area about the size of Rhode Island. The typical peak of the fire season is still to come.

"As we move into September and October, if we get strong high pressure in the East, it can certainly trap smoke near the surface in the East for several days,' AccuWeather meteorologist Jake Sojda said.

For residents of California and other parts of the fire-ravaged West, little relief from the poor air quality is in sight - and that remains a serious health concern. "Exposure to particle pollution can cause serious health problems, aggravate lung disease, cause asthma attacks and acute bronchitis and increase risk of respiratory infections," the National Weather Service said.

Light winds and relentless high heat in California continue to trap the smoke near the ground.

One small bonus has come from all the smoke: stunning red and orange sunrises and sunsets across the country. The reason for this, according to AccuWeather, is that the particles in the smoke work as a sunlight filter to allow more orange and red colors of the light spectrum to pass through.

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