Smoke From West Coast Fires Is Hanging Over D.C. West Coast smoke has drifted across the U.S., giving D.C. skies a hazy appearance. But the air quality is still good.
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Smoke From West Coast Fires Is Hanging Over D.C.

Smoke from West Coast fires has blanketed the country. Courtesy of/AirNow.gov hide caption

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Courtesy of/AirNow.gov

The sky in the D.C. region has had an eerie glow this week, the sun at times an orange orb glowing weakly through a layer of haze. That haze is smoke from wildfires raging some 2,500 miles away, according to the National Weather Service.

The West is burning, with more than 4 million acres charred across 10 states. It's one of the worst fire seasons in history. More than 30 people are dead and many more are missing. Air quality in Portland is the worst in the world, and skies in the Bay Area turned a dark, sci-fi orange.

Now, smoke from the fires has drifted across the country, dimming the sun and possibly cooling the temperature on the East Coast. Plumes have stretched across most of the continental U.S. and much of Canada, and are creeping north toward Greenland across the Labrador Sea.

The sun through a smoky haze in 16th Street Heights on Tuesday morning. Emma Brown/DCist hide caption

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Emma Brown/DCist

"Smoke from wildfires will likely continue to obscure the sky to some extent," according to the National Weather Service forecast for D.C. on Tuesday morning. Because of the smoke, high temperatures in D.C. "could be a couple degrees cooler," according to the NWS forecast.

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In D.C., the air quality has remained good, despite the hazy appearance. This is because the smoke is high above the region, in the jet stream. However, smoke from distant fires could make air unhealthy if weather conditions change and the smoke descends.

Smoke in the atmosphere changes the color of light in much the same way that sunsets and sunrises. Particles in the smoke allow longer wavelengths of light through — like red and orange — but they block out shorter wavelengths, like yellow, blue and green.

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