Residents of the western U.S. and Canada have become grimly accustomed to smoke-clogged air from wildfires during the summer months. This week, the problem has spread to the Midwest and the East Coast.
New York City was filled with reddish haze yesterday, with its worst air quality on record. A Broadway matinee was interrupted when its star had difficulty breathing, and some nighttime shows were canceled. Pro sports teams in both New York and Philadelphia postponed their games. In Binghamton, N.Y., a meteorologist said that the area around him “looks like Mars” and “smells like cigars.” In Toronto, residents awoke this week to find a thick layer of ash near open windows.
The immediate cause is a series of wildfires in Quebec and Ontario, which began burning weeks ago. The larger cause is the same one damaging the air quality in the West: a sharp increase in wildfires during the 21st century, caused partly by the hotter temperatures and drier conditions created by climate change.
Bill McKibben, the writer and environmental activist, lives in Vermont and argued that the Canadian fires have given millions of North Americans a sense of what other people already know. “Today is our chance to understand what it really feels like every day on a fossil-fueled planet, for the billions of people unlucky enough to really bear the brunt,” McKibben wrote on Substack. “My eyes are stinging a bit from the smoke, but I’ve never seen more clearly.”
My personal version of McKibben’s point is that I had a headache much of yesterday while working in downtown Washington. It reminded me of a similar headache when I first visited Beijing, in 2010, and inhaled the pollution there. (Here is advice from The Times about pollution-related headaches.)
The rest of today’s newsletter is broken into three parts: a selection of the best coverage about what’s happening, from The Times and elsewhere; a forecast for the next few days; and advice about how to deal with the poor air quality.
The effects of climate change are apparent across the U.S.: Oceans are warmer than they have been in decades, and in Puerto Rico, the heat index reached 125 degrees.
The hazy, unhealthy air in New York City is expected to spread south and west across the U.S. today, enveloping millions more Americans.
As of this morning, Philadelphia had the largest concentrations of fine particulate matter. The authorities issued a “code red” air quality alert. Washington’s air — officially “unhealthy” — was only slightly better.
By Friday, the worst pollution is expected to move away from the Northeast.
“The weather pattern may finally break down this weekend, and by Sunday the winds may shift, providing relief from the smoke,” Judson Jones, a meteorologist and Times reporter, wrote. “Relief could come even earlier if progress is made on putting out the wildfires.” But Judson added that wildfire season had only just started, which means haze could return this summer.
Lionel Messi: Soccer’s most coveted free agent chose to play in Miami, rejecting a monumental offer from Saudi Arabia, The Times writes. Ticket prices surged across Major League Soccer, The Athletic reports.
N.B.A. history: Nikola Jokic became the first player to record 30 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in a Finals game. He achieved the feat during Denver’s Game 3 win last night, The Athletic writes.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Freeing the body
Over the past decade, California has been expanding arts programs in its state prisons. Visual arts and music are popular, but an unexpected art form is taking off at a few prisons: dance. “We were going against a whole culture that defines dance as weak,” said Dimitri Gales, a former inmate who started a dance class at a prison in Los Angeles County.