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New York’s Gray Skies Come From California Smoke in Jet Stream

  • Western wildfire smoke reaches East Coast on high winds
  • Air quality from Washington to California remains poor
The sun rises behind the Empire State Building in New York City on Sept. 15.
The sun rises behind the Empire State Building in New York City on Sept. 15.Photographer: Gary Hershorn/Corbis via Getty Images

The sun is out, there isn’t a cloud to be seen, and yet the sky over New York and the Northeast is a milky gray because jet-stream winds are driving smoke from fires in the West across the atmosphere.

The jet stream, a ribbon of air four miles (6.4 kilometers) to eight miles above land, can move as fast as 275 miles per hour. People from Washington to Boston aren’t facing the poor air quality threatening residents in the West because the smoke remains at high altitudes.

The smoke from fires in the West has reached the East Coast, Frank Pereira, a forecaster at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, said in a telephone interview. “Here on the East Coast, it is being carried by upper level winds. It is all up in the jet stream.”