Wildfire smoke from California is so extreme that it’s reached the East Coast — here’s what it looks like from space

The wildfires tearing through California have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres of land, destroyed thousands of structures, and forced evacuations across the state.

The Mendocino Complex Fire, currently burning in northern California, is the largest in the state’s history. The Carr Fire is already the sixth-most destructive in the state’s history, having claimed six lives and burned through thousands of structures around the city of Redding.

Firefighters are working to contain the blazes. Though they’ve made progress since the fires were first ignited in July, air pollution from the smoke and burning embers is still a serious concern for California residents.

According to the National Weather Service, smoke from the fires has actually made it’s way across the country – all the way to the East Coast.

While these smoke particles are not harmful by the time they waft eastward, it’s notable just how much smoke the fires in California and across the West Coast are producing.

The fires are so large they can be seen from space:


Astronauts aboard the International Space Station captured the fires last week.

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Smoke from California’s wildfires seen from the International Space Station.
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NASA/ Flickr

Cruising over 250 miles above the Earth gives astronauts a unique perspective on the fires.

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Wildfires north of the San Francisco Bay Area in the Mendocino National Forest.
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NASA/ Flickr

In this image, you can see the smoke from the fires north of the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Wildfires to the north and east of the San Francisco Bay Area.
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NASA/ Flickr

Prevailing winds and air flow over the Northern Hemisphere push the smoke eastward.

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Wildfires in northern California in the Mendocino National Forest.
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NASA/ Flickr

Source: Mashable


It’s a problem that’s only set to get worse. Twelve of the fifteen largest fires in California’s history have occurred since 2000, a trend spurred on by climate change.

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Smoke from California’s wildfires seen from the International Space Station.
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NASA/Flickr

Source: Business Insider


The devastation caused by the fires is even more apparent in infrafred. Here, you can see the vast swaths of burned vegetation underneath plumes of smoke from the Mendocino Complex Fire.

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Courtesy of Digital Globe

The Mendocino Complex Fire is actually made up of two smaller blazes, the Ranch Fire and the River Fire. Both have burned through acres of forest, as seen below.

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Copernicus Sentinel 2

You can see how the smoke moves eastward from the fires in this map powered by WX Shift, a weather forecasting service.

Check out the map here.