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One perk of this job is that I get to spend a good deal of time crisscrossing the state in my car. The hazy skies this week have grabbed my attention, the filtered light beautiful at times and undeniably eerie.
The smoky veil that has descended over New Hampshire is a result of 13 wildfires burning in Nova Scotia, three of which are considered out of control, according to a Guardian report.
These unprecedented fires are expected to worsen, with 18,000 people already ordered to evacuate their homes outside of Halifax as of Wednesday. And, as it happens, we’re downwind.
That has prompted New Hampshire to call for an air quality action day today, with air pollution in the Seacoast expected to reach an unhealthy level for those who are sensitive to it, including children and older adults, anyone with lung disease like asthma or bronchitis, and people who are active outdoors.
If you fall into one of those categories, as I do, the state recommends you limit “prolonged outdoor exertion.” It is not a good day for hiking, running, or cycling. And, the Department of Environmental Services warns, “Even non-sensitive individuals could experience mild health effects and may want to consider limiting strenuous or prolonged outdoor activities.”
Things aren’t as bad in the rest of the state, where air quality pollution is expected to be “moderate,” one grade worse than the “good” quality we’re used to. But moderate conditions can still affect those who are highly sensitive to air pollution.
The pollutant the state’s concerned about is ground-level ozone, which is the main component of smog. Fine particle air pollution is also expected throughout New Hampshire on Thursday, another reason to avoid long stretches of outdoor activity, especially if you are sensitive to pollution. Exposure can cause chest pain, heart palpitations, coughing, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
Smoky skies have been visible across the northeast including New Hampshire, Vermont, and parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island since Tuesday, and could last through Friday. While this is becoming something of a summer routine, smoke usually comes from the northwest, not the northeast. That’s happening now as the result of an unusual wind.
The high temperatures and sunny forecast makes ozone pollution worse, and conditions are expected to clear on Friday when temperatures drop.
You can see up to date air conditions here.