The worst of the wildfire smoke is likely over for millions of people across the Northeast, after two days of orange-tinted skies and the smell of burning forests filling the air. But smoke could remain dense in other parts of the region through at least Friday, according to a New York Times analysis of atmospheric computer models.
Poor air quality peaked in some of the Northeast’s most populous cities late Wednesday or early Thursday, and conditions have been steadily improving in places including New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Instead of a concentrated mass of thick smoke streaming into some of the nation’s densest urban regions, the plume from Canadian wildfires became more widespread Thursday, spreading haze into the Deep South.
A swath of more concentrated smoke still hung over portions of the Mid-Atlantic, from Virginia into New Jersey, on Thursday afternoon, with forecast models showing it lasting through the evening. And New York could see some smoke return, blown back in from the Atlantic Ocean by sea breezes. But conditions in the city were likely to improve and stay that way on Friday, forecasters with the National Weather Service said.
By the time the sun rises on Friday morning, forecasters expect it to lose much of its reddish hue — caused by light scattering from wildfire smoke — across much of the Northeast, though a swath from the Washington region through Western Pennsylvania could still experience some gloom throughout the day.
Forecasters said they hope that air quality will continue to improve as the weekend progresses, with a new weather pattern blowing the Canadian smoke elsewhere — though exactly where is hard to predict. Anticipating smoke patterns is more difficult than some other forms of weather forecasting, in part because the amount of smoke produced by wildfires can be difficult to predict.
That means the current air quality forecast could quickly change. The New York Times is tracking it here.
Christopher Maag contributed reporting.