Southern California from our Earth’s near atmosphere, Associated Press/NASA.
Note: Excellent NASA satellite images of the fires throughout the full episode from 2003 can be found here.
That huge opaque, beige swatch of smoke (from the fires) that can be seen in the upper area above the white cloudy parts is why there was literally zero visibility in many areas of Southern California, and even worse breathing room for anything living.
Cooler temperatures, combined with humid, “on shore flow” — winds off the Pacific completed by white, cotton ball clouds moving inland with rapid purpose — made for breathable air today and the return of visibility upward of the blue, clearing sky. It’s been a full week of emergency and dark ochre where clear light is usually.
I spent a bit of time out of doors this afternoon without so much as one cough. Sneezes, yes, but at least, no coughing today, and no struggle to breathe, as in the last six days, and a break from the threatening environment all around, reminiscent of, well, nothing I’ve seen before, at least, not in my lifetime, not in the real.
Although inland, upland — Big Bear is now in danger from the inland burning fire from the already ravaged Lake Arrowhead area — the air quality is very bad as can be seen in that photo above, from NASA, upper middle area (what atmospheric pollution from the fires that has been lingering here, kept in the coastal area by the Santa Anas, has now blown inland due to today’s reversed wind direction off the Pacific).
But, at least, also, most people in the inland areas were evacuated days ago, while here on the coast, we weren’t, but left to live in the air pollution instead. When you can’t breathe, the option of being overcome by flames is a dismal choice, indeed.
Today, I could and can breathe. It was wonderful to see and breathe the new air and see, again, the clearing, blue sky.