Smoke produced by fires thousands of miles away is now choking a storm swirling in the Atlantic Ocean. Welcome to weather in 2018.
Thursday morning, Weather Channel meteorologist Jonathan Erdman found that smoke from California and Canada’s record-breaking wildfires has nearly engulfed subtropical storm Ernesto.
Previously, the wildfire smoke had shut down Yosemite National Park, and the National Weather Service watched last week as smoke traveled 3,000 miles across the U.S.
Meteorologists first spotted the inevitable meeting of smoke and storm after Ernesto formed on Wednesday.
It’s not unprecedented for smoke to waft thousands of miles across the U.S. and beyond, but it certainly is rare, atmospheric scientists explained last week.
It also takes a lot of smoke to create this kind of global impact.
California alone is contributing its fair share, with three of the largest fires in Golden State history having burned well over half a million acres this summer.
The easily visible collision of storm and smoke occurred when the formidable Canadian wildfires were added to the mix, with the benefit of high atmospheric winds.
The event is yet another stark consequence of climate change enhancing Earth’s natural processes.
Wildfires are an expected summer occurrence, but record and near-record heat has resulted in exceptionally dried-out forests and vegetation in the Western U.S. and Canada, enabling vigorous, deadly storms.
Though Ernesto, in the middle of the ocean, isn’t a threat to land and is forecast to peter out in a matter of days, it’s unknown how the wildfire smoke will affect the tempest.
Erdman cited past instances of smoke both enhancing rainfall, and suppressing storms.
Although this seems like a pretty exceptional event, there’s a reasonable chance that much more smoke will enter the high atmosphere in the coming weeks and months.
As Yale University fire scientist Jennifer Marlon noted yesterday, robust fires are still raging, and “there’s still plenty of forest out there to burn.”