The Northeast Gets a Taste of Fire Season
A guide to what comes nextand what this moment explains about our warming planet This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here. This First This morning, five days after The Atlantic published a profile of thenCNN CEO Chris Licht by staff writer Tim Alberta, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery announced that Licht would be leaving CNN immediately. Read the profile here. About 75 million people across the country are under air-quality alerts. Below is a brief guide to what comes next, and what this moment explains about our warming planet. First, here are three more recent stories from The Atlantic : Surreal Skies In much of the northern United States and parts of Canada, a look outside the window right now might paint a more vivid picture of the current reality than any news article can. Wildfire smoke from Canada is spreading south over many regions of the Midwest, Ohio Valley, the Northeast, and the mid-Atlantic. Midtown Manhattan has been orange . About 75 million people across the country are under air-quality alerts. Heres what to know about how to protect yourself, what comes next, and what this moment explains about our warming planet. Air-quality levels pose health threats ranging from small to serious. Lets start with some context: Good air quality lands from 0 to 50 on the Air Quality Index (AQI), which measures the density of air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and particulates. Any air-quality level higher than 100 can cause health issues for people at risk, such as children, the elderly, and those with asthma or lung diseases; air-quality levels higher than 150 can cause problems for even healthy people. As of 4 p.m. EDT today, the New York City metro area had reached an AQI of 413, falling within the hazardous category. The research on health effects from wildfire-smoke exposure in particular is not expansive, but evidence suggests links between exposure and various health effects, both cardiovascular and respiratory. Wildfire smoke contains small particulate-matter pollutants; when these are inhaled, they can get into the lungs and may enter the bloodstream. For healthy people without underlying medical conditions, brief exposure will likely not cause more than temporary irritation, but such levels of exposure are concerning for vulnerable people and those with certain health issuesand prolonged exposure is concerning for all people. So what can you do while waiting this out? Experts suggest that you stay inside as much as possible, and keep windows and doors closed. If you have a window air conditioner, check that the unit is recirculating air from indoors instead of pulling air from outside. And as my colleague Katherine J. Wu reported today , wearing an N95 mask that fits flush against your face can help minimize the particles inhaled when youre outside, but your cloth mask probably wont do very much (although its better than not covering up at all). A new wind pattern is expected to improve air quality in some areas this weekend. How long this level of air quality will last in the northeastern U.S. depends on wind direction. Today into tomorrow, an even worse round of wildfire smoke could move south out of Canada and hit Pennsylvania, New York State, and the mid-Atlantic. But starting on Friday, the winds are expected to change direction, which experts predict should keep new smoke from moving south from Canada. The time and location of Canadas wildfires are highly unusual. Matthew Cappucci, a meteorologist for Capital Weather Gang, and Jason Samenow, The Washington Post s weather editor, explained yesterday that though wildfires are somewhat normal across Canada and the western United States in the summer, outbreaks as widespread and numerous as these are virtually unheard of in late May into June. The amount of smoke pouring into the Northeast is thus also exceptional. And these wildfires are a clear effect of climate change. Cappucci and Samenow explain: While wildfires can be sparked in many different ways, the rapidity with which they spread is proportional to how hot and dry the ambient environment is. There exists a strong link between the frequency and intensity of heat domes and human-caused climate change. A number of high-end heat domes have already fostered wildfire outbreaks across Canada this year, and more appear to be in the offing. Wildfire hot spots may soon pop up in unexpected places. A wet winter and cool spring curbed wildfire potential in parts of the West, but experts anticipate that warmer, drier conditions in Americas northern tier will drive new fire risks this summer, particularly in the Great Lakes states. And eventually, parts of the East Coast may catch up. As the climate reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis wrote in The Atlantic last year, the Northeast is now primed for more frequent droughts that will harm agriculture, intermittently reduce drinking-water supplies, and increase wildfire risk. The East will not emerge unscathed from the infernos that are quickly becoming a hallmark of western summers. Related: Want to get our latest climate-change coverage in your inbox? Sign up for The Weekly Planet. Todays News Dispatches Explore all of our newsletters here. Evening Read Its 5 a.m. Somewhere By Rachel Sugar JFK Terminal 8It is 9:22 a.m., and I am learning about consumer protections from a food-safety inspector who is on her second Bloody Mary. There is nothing quite like alcohol to facilitate an expansive conversation: I should encourage young people, she tells me, to consider careers in food safety. Shes on her way back from a work trip, and I learn that she always drinks Bloody Marys when she travels, which is often, but never drinks them at home. We move on to other topics: reincarnation, ExxonMobil, karma, the state of labor unions. The only thing that seemed to be off limits was her full name (her job, she said, prevents her from speaking with the media). Were sitting in the New York Sports Bar across from Gate 10, which is next to Solstice Sunglasses and a vending machine selling ready-to-eat salads in plastic mason jars. In the corner, two blond women drink white wine. A passing traveler pops her head in: Does the bar serve French fries? The bartender says no, they dont start serving French fries until 10:30. It is too early for French fries. But it is not too early for white wine. Read the full article. More From The Atlantic Culture Break Read. Elena Knows , by the Argentine novelist Claudia Pineiro, is both a gripping mystery novel and a reminder of the incredible multitude of perspectives that exist in this world at once, one of our critics writes . Watch. The latest offering from the Spider-Man multiverse, Across the Spider-Verse , challenges the basic structure of a superhero story. Play our daily crossword. P.S. Smartphone cameras get confused by wildfire skies, my colleague Ian Bogost noted in 2020. In some cases, photographers found that their cameras rendered Californias orange overlay in a neutral gray. The un-oranged images were caused by one of the most basic features of digital cameras, their ability to infer what color is in an image based on the lighting conditions in which it is taken, Bogost explained back then. Like the people looking up at it, the software never expected the sky to be bathed in orange. Isabel Kelli Maria Korducki contributed to this newsletter.