The iconic capital of the world reaches impactful weather conditions as it is shrouded in orange hues. All outdoor events and school activities cancel due to “unhealthy” levels of smoke coming from Canadian wildfires.
“Smoky haze covers New York City on Wednesday (07/06/2023)”
It is since early March that Canada began to suffer from record-settling series of wildfires. Eleven of its territories and provinces have been affected, yet it is Quebec that outstood these areas with the rapid spread of fire in its boreal forests. With significant destructions and forced evacuations of around 5,000 residents, Quebec reaches dangerous conditions regarding public health and environmental preservation. According to officials, it is possible that a “combination of the dry weather conditions and human activity” are the leading reasons for the fires.
With more than 120 fires burning, the Canadian government asks for military assistance. It has come to a point where 80 of these fires are considered out of control, and more than 12,000 hectares have been affected, according to the SOPFEU. "Our priority is the protection of communities people live in and strategic, essential infrastructure," said Stéphane Caron, the organization’s spokesperson. There are 400 firefighters reportedly working in Quebec, and calling for the assistance of foreign firefighting teams might have to be necessary.
As the blaze continues to rage, a shift in wind direction has caused dense smoke to drift across the Northeast, towards the neighbouring state of New York. Although fire has not yet crossed the border, the consistent smoke presents its own set of concerns. As the state’s environmental and health agencies monitor air quality levels in Manhattan, the decision to close down public events and school activities has been made. Public health advisories have urged the residents to limit contact with the smoke, especially those with respiratory conditions and weaker immune systems.
The U.S. Air Quality Index (AQI), was measured on Wednesday morning (7th of June) in New York City, and an estimated 199 AQI, labelled “very unhealthy” was established by the environmental protection agency. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. For example, an AQI value of 50 or below represents good air quality, while an AQI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality. As the New York AQI was set to nearly 200, the level of concern has turned into a very unhealthy one. This means there is a general health alert in the city, and the air quality could potentially affect the health of many.
Remembrances of the pandemic seem to rise in New York, as facials masks, and other measures of protection are used across the city. AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist, Jonathan Porter recommends people to “frequently check the AccuWeather exclusive Plume Labs air quality maps and limit their time outdoors,”. For some, exposing themselves to pollution is not an option, and so Porter recommended that if one must spend time outside, they should use a high-quality N95 or KN95 mask. “Sleeping with the windows closed and using an air conditioner or fan can be helpful,”
Air quality observation sites from the New York and Eastern Pennsylvania region report the highest concentrations of harmful pollutants in the air since 1999. According to Porter, it has come to a point where breathing the polluted air in the Northeast for several hours could be compared to smoking 5-10 cigarettes. Residents of Manhattan mention the orange mist covering the skyscrapers throughout the week. It is considered “apocalyptic”, with multiple media references to the 2017 “Blade Runner 2049” sci-fi movie.
This surreal spectacle serves as a reminder of the far-reaching consequences of climate change and the urgent need to address its devastating effects. Residents of New York now face the challenge of navigating their daily lives while contending with poor air quality, emphasizing the need for efforts to mitigate the impacts of wildfires and protect the health and well-being of the citizens.