Global Economy

Smoke from Canada wildfires deteriorates New York air quality; surpasses New Delhi's pollution level

The air quality of New York city has deteriorated as smoke from the Canadian wildfires poured into the US East Coast and Midwest, with data showing that the pollution level in the metropolitan city was highest among significant cities worldwide, even surpassing New Delhi. Situation was such that the picturesque and renowned skyline of New York City became invisible on Wednesday behind a hazy veil of smoke from the Canadian wildfires flowing into the region.

According to IQAir, New York City had the highest levels of air pollution among significant cities worldwide on Wednesday morning, surpassing even New Delhi.

Recently in a global air quality report, India was ranked eighth on the list, with Chad, Iraq, Pakistan, Bahrain, and Bangladesh being the five most polluted countries in 2022.

The weather forecasters expect hazy weather to continue in New York through the rest of the week.

AccuWeather forecasters expect “very unhealthy” levels to continue through the rest of the week.

The air quality in New York City was listed as “unhealthy” as of Wednesday morning. The haze across the city reduced visibility. Many weather stations in the Big Apple reported visibility of less than a mile. A ground stop was issued at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey and LaGuardia Airport in New York City on Wednesday afternoon due to low visibility from the smoke and haze, according to the Federal aviation Administration.

In addition to New York, strong smell of smoke, dark skies and breathlessness caught the attention of residents in other cities and towns from Maryland to New Hampshire, reporting low visibility and hazy skies.

Some of the worst air quality levels were found in Delaware. Wilmington, Delaware, which is located about 24 miles southwest of Philadelphia, spiked an air quality index of 199, which is considered very unhealthy.

Photos and videos shared on social media captured the eerie glow of the sun as it rose above some of the most famous skyscrapers in the Big Apple.

The unusually poor air quality in the Northeast is “extremely rare in modern times,” according to AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter, and is like the levels of air pollution frequently observed in other parts of the world without the same air pollution standards and restrictions, including China, India, Southeast Asia, and even into South America.

“As bad as the smoke and air pollution was on Tuesday, the air quality can be even worse at times across parts of the Northeast on Wednesday and poor air quality is expected to linger in some areas into the weekend,” Porter said.

Porter recommended that if one must spend time outside, to use a high-quality N95 or KN95 mask.

“Sleeping with the windows closed and using an air conditioner or fan can be helpful,” he said, adding that a HEPA filter can reduce the number of these small particles in the air.

Dr. Boris Quennehen, an air quality scientist with Plume Labs, said: “Smoke is made of gases and particles, the same pollutants which are responsible for poor air quality”.

As the smoke is forecast to continue spreading across parts of the East this week, air quality alerts have been issued along a nearly 850-mile-long path from South Carolina to New Hampshire

“Intense wildfires have been burning in Alberta, Canada, for more than a month now. Depending on the weather conditions, the smoke from these wildfires can be transported on very large distances, in different directions and at different altitudes,” Quennehen said.

“Denver, Colorado, was impacted by smoke from the Canadian wildfires two weeks ago and now it’s the northeast US,” he said.

New York City Major Eric Adams urged all residents on Tuesday night to limit outdoor activities this week.

Adams said New York City public schools will remain open but “not offer any outdoor activities on Wednesday”.

New Jersey officials urged residents to limit their time outside due to the poor air quality.

For those who must work outside, the state recommended that people wear an N95 mask, several schools in New Jersey cancelled recess and other outdoor activities, due to the air quality across the state.

“People should frequently check the AccuWeather exclusive Plume Labs air quality maps and limit their time outdoors,” said Porter, who recommended that if one must spend time outside, to use a high-quality N95 or KN95 mask.

“Sleeping with the windows closed and using an air conditioner or fan can be helpful,” he said, adding that a HEPA filter can reduce the number of these small particles in the air.

AccuWeather forecasters say the wildfire season in Canada got off to a devastatingly early start.

As of early June, more than 8 million acres of land have been scorched by wildfires across Canada, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC). The CIFFC was tracking more than 400 active fires across the nation Monday.

This alert means air pollution concentration in the region will be unhealthy for people with heart or lung disease, children, and adults over 65. The alert warned these people to limit their time outdoors.

“Exposure to elevated levels of fine particles such as wood smoke can increase the likelihood of respiratory symptoms in sensitive individuals and aggravate heart or lung disease,” the National Weather Service alert said.


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