How apocalyptic this fire season is

It’s still 2020 and the pandemic-/-climate change apocalypse just got even worse.

The West Coast is burning. Residents of the San Francisco Bay Area awoke to dark orange skies, as a thick layer of smoke settled over Northern California. (Smoke scatters blue light, allowing only red and yellow to reach the ground.)

It’s hard to overstate how really, terribly bad this fire season has been. In California alone, wildfires have blown through 2.5 million acres of land since the beginning of the year — about 10 times more than last year, and much more than 2018’s previous record of 1.8 million acres.

Meanwhile, in Washington state, fires erupted over Labor Day weekend, scorching 330,000 acres in just 24 hours. The smoke led cities across the West Coast to warn their residents to stay inside and keep windows closed to avoid breathing some of the dirtiest air in the world.

One of the reasons, of course, is climate change. High temperatures dry out vegetation and the surrounding air, making wildfires more likely to burn fast and hard. The fire season has also lengthened. What was once a four-month season has stretched to six or even eight months in some regions of the U.S., according to the Forest Service.

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