Since it began its satellite observations in 2003, the European Copernicus climate change service had never recorded data of such magnitude concerning the fires that ravage the American West.
The activity of these fires ” unprecedented “ is, according to the organization, “Tens to hundreds of times more intense” than the average. Unprecedented amounts of carbon have already been released into the atmosphere. And the smoke, particularly dense, crossed the Atlantic and spread in Europe.
— Copernicus ECMWF (@CopernicusECMWF) September 16, 2020
“The fact that these fires emit so much pollution into the atmosphere that we can still see thick smoke 8,000 km away reflects how devastating they are, in terms of scale and duration.”, said Wednesday in a statement Mark Parrington, scientist of the service of monitoring of the atmosphere of Copernicus.
25 large households
Most of the smoke is concentrated on the west coast of the United States, where the air quality of the major California cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, or those further north of Portland (Oregon) and Seattle (Washington State) ), is currently among the worst in the world.
More than 17,000 firefighters, exhausted by their Sisyphean fight against the flames since mid-August, are at work in the only state of California, the most affected, with some 25 major outbreaks.
One of them, the « Bobcat Fire », threatened to engulf the historic Mount Wilson observatory, near Los Angeles, but firefighters managed to save the building.
The fires of the American West have killed at least 30 people in California and Oregon. More than 2 million hectares in total have already gone up in smoke and tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes, many of which have been reduced to ashes.
Rising temperatures, less precipitation
The fires that multiply across the planet are associated with various phenomena anticipated by scientists due to the climate change : increase in temperature and decrease in rainfall in particular.
Less than two months from thepresidential election, the fires, which have already caused billions of dollars in damage, have entered the campaign.
President Donald Trump visited California on Monday, where he sparked controversy by appearing to deny the role of climate change in these extraordinary fires, especially due according to him to a bad “Forest management”. His Democratic opponent Joe Biden, who will face him at the polls on November 3, echoed him as “Climate arsonist”.