A thick layer of wildfire smoke darkened the skies and coated the Bay Area in an orange hue as residents awoke Wednesday morning.
The “unprecedented” amount of smoke comes from numerous wildfires burning up and down the West Coast that grew amid dry and windy conditions over the last day or two, according to the National Weather Service Bay Area.
“The smoke is so thick it’s filtering out the sunlight,” said Cindy Palmer, a meteorologist with the NWS Bay Area. “It’s acting like a cloud, instead of just being a thin layer it’s a really thick layer right now.”
The smoke is coming from 16 different fire complexes burning north of the Interstate 80 in Northern California, as well as wildfires in Southern California, Washington and Oregon, according to Palmer.
Palmer said the smoke is likely to continue blocking out sunlight throughout Wednesday because of wind conditions.
“The conditions over the last 24 to 36, maybe 48 hours have just been such that the fires really, they blew up,” Palmer said. “They are consuming a lot of fuel and all of that fuel [is producing smoke].”
Unprecedented amount of smoke in the atmosphere as a record number of acres burn across California & the West. From space, you can't even see @KarlTheFog & the marine layer as the smoke extends well out over the Pacific. #CAwx #CAFires #Smoke #BayArea @CAL_FIRE @NOAASatellites pic.twitter.com/hP77TlsDCb
— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) September 9, 2020
While the skies are darkened, the air quality remained mostly moderate across the Bay Area as of Wednesday morning.
But officials expect the air quality to worsen later in the day in the North Bay and East Bay in particular.
“The smoke that we are seeing right now is aloft,” said Kristine Roselius, spokesperson for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. “Unfortunately as the day goes on some of that smoke will start dropping down.”
Roselius said air quality in San Francisco is expected to remain mostly in the moderate range but “that could change at any time.”
“Wildfire smoke is unpredictable,” she said.
Residents can check the air quality online. Also, people who smell smoke outside are advised to remain indoors as much as possible.
The BAAQMD has extended a Spare the Air Alert through Friday.
“What we’ve got is a tremendous amount of smoke aloft,” Roselius said. “The entire state of California is blanketed in smoke right now.”
Today’s sepia skies are due to widespread haze from wildfires burning around us. As the winds weaken above, gravity will take over as primary vertical transport of smoke. Suspended smoke will descend closer to the surface & could lead to darker skies & worsening air quality. pic.twitter.com/7D3JBxEAFL
— SFDPH (@SF_DPH) September 9, 2020
In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed reacted to the strange conditions in a tweet.
“I know people are concerned by the orange sky we all woke up to this morning,” Breed said. “The cause is a combination of fog and smoke from wildfires up and down the West Coast.”
“This is yet another reminder though that we’re living with the effects of climate change in real time,” the mayor continued. “The wildfires are causing massive devastation and we don’t have time to waste. We need to act now.”
San Francisco has put out advice for smoky conditions here.