The fires that have been raging for weeks in the western United States are so powerful that the smoke they release has spread to Europe, and may be further fueled in the coming days by high winds expected in California.
Since it began its satellite observations in 2003, the European Copernicus Climate Change Service has never recorded data of this magnitude.
The activity of these “unprecedented” fires is, according to the organization, “tens to hundreds of times more intense” than average.
Unprecedented amounts of carbon have already been released into the atmosphere. And the smoke, particularly dense, crossed the whole country and the Atlantic.
“The fact that these fires emit so much pollution into the atmosphere that we can still see thick smoke 8,000 km away reflects how devastating they are, in terms of scale and duration,” said Wednesday in a report. press release Mark Parrington, scientist in the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service.
Most of the smoke is concentrated on the west coast of the United States, where the air quality of the large Californian cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, or those further north of Portland (Oregon) and Seattle (Washington State) ), is currently among the worst in the world.
For days, it has been classified as “unhealthy”, even locally dangerous, by local authorities and some are starting to worry about the health consequences of such exposure to fumes.
More than 17,000 firefighters, exhausted by their Sisyphean fight against the flames since mid-August, are at work in the only state of California, the most affected, with some 25 major outbreaks.
And Gov. Gavin Newsom warned Wednesday of the strong, hot, dry air laden “Santa Ana” winds that are expected over California in the days to come and risk exacerbating an already tense situation.
The state has already suffered more than 7,600 fires this year, compared to less than 5,000 throughout 2019, and the forest fire season traditionally lasts until November, said Newsom.
One of these fires, the “Bobcat Fire”, threatened to engulf the historic Mount Wilson Observatory near Los Angeles, but firefighters managed to avert the danger immediately.
The fires of the American West have killed at least 30 people in California and Oregon. More than 2 million hectares in total have already gone up in smoke and tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes, hundreds of which have been reduced to ashes.
“Empty and worried”
This is the case with Eraida Rodas’ wooden house, in which she had lived for a dozen years with her husband and four children in Talent, in southern Oregon.
All that remains today are the metal structure of the floor, the charred carcass of a child’s bicycle and small animal statues.
“It’s as if I had lost all the efforts our family made, I feel empty and worried,” she told AFP, sobs in her voice.
The fires that are increasing across the planet are associated with various phenomena anticipated by scientists due to climate change: increase in temperature and decrease in precipitation in particular.
With less than two months of the presidential election, the fires, which have already caused several billion dollars in damage, have entered the campaign.
President Donald Trump went to California on Monday, where he sparked controversy by appearing to deny the role of climate change in these extraordinary fires, especially due to him due to poor “forest management”.
His Democratic opponent Joe Biden, who will face him at the polls on November 3, echoed him as a “climate arsonist”.
Without citing him by name, Governor Newsom, who spoke to President Trump earlier this week, said he had “no more patience for those who deny the existence of climate change.”