The Dixie Fire ballooned in size over the weekend, polluting air quality to dangerous levels across the West.
The fire, the 6th-largest on record in California history just last Thursday is now the second-largest fire in California history and the state's largest-ever single-source fire with nearly 500,000 acres burned as of Sunday evening. At least five people are currently missing though that number could grow as residents, some armed, refuse to evacuate.
Heat and drought, both of which are being made worse by human-caused climate change, have dried out the fire's fuel sources, leading to "fire activity that even veteran firefighters haven't seen in their career," Edwin Zuniga, a spokesman for Cal Fire told The Washington Post. "We're just in really uncharted territory."
Smoke from fires in California and across the West has dangerously polluted air in multiple major cities, including Denver and Salt Lake City where air quality levels were among the worst in the world. That smoke, ironically, kept the fire from growing even faster over the weekend, but conditions are likely to clear and become more dangerous in the coming days.
As reported by The Associated Press:
The fire's cause was under investigation. The Pacific Gas & Electric utility has said it may have been sparked when a tree fell on one of its power lines. A federal judge ordered PG&E on Friday to give details by Aug. 16 about the equipment and vegetation where the fire started.
Cooler temperatures and higher humidity slowed the spread of the fire, and temperatures topped 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) instead of the triple-digit highs recorded earlier in the week.
But the blaze and its neighboring fires, within several hundred miles of each other, posed an ongoing threat.
Gov. Gavin Newsom surveyed the damage in Greenville Saturday, writing on Twitter that "our hearts ache for this town."
"These are climate-induced wildfires and we have to acknowledge that we have the capacity in not just the state but in this country to solve this," Newsom said on CNN.
For a deeper dive:
The Washington Post, The New York Times, POLITICO, Axios, NBC, ABC, CNN, BBC, NPR, NBC, The Hill; Evacuation refusal: LA Times, The New York Times; Air quality: AP, KUTV, 9-NEWS Denver, AP, The Washington Post; Fire conditions: AP; Climate Signals background: 2021 Western wildfire season, Drought
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The need for clean, pure air has never been more evident. Between the current concern over the coronavirus pandemic and rising levels of air pollution and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) throughout our country, many of us have started seeking simple, effective ways to ensure cleaner air within our homes.
One of the most obvious ways to accomplish this is to invest in an in-home air purifier. But what exactly should you be looking for in a home air purifier? And what are some of the best air purification brands on the market today?
Our Top Picks for Best Air Purifiers
- Hathaspace Smart True HEPA Air Purifier - Best Smart Purifier
- LEVOIT Core 300 Air Purifier - Most Affordable
- Bluair Blue Pure 211+ Air Purifier - Best for Large Rooms
- Honeywell HPA300 True HEPA Air Purifier - Best for Allergies
- Toshiba Smart Wi-Fi Air Purifier - Best Voice Control
How Air Purifiers Work
Before investing in an in-home air purifier, sometimes called an air cleaner, it may be helpful to know how these devices are intended to work.
For the most part, home air purifiers come with one or more HEPA filters, as well as a fan that sucks in and circulates air. As the air moves through the filter, dust, allergens, pet hair, pollutants, particulates, and other airborne particles are caught in it, allowing clean air to be pushed back out into your home.
Of course, air filters don't last forever, and the only way to keep your air purifier working as intended is to change out your filter with a filter replacement on a regular schedule. This means that air purifiers have a small operational cost associated with them; you will likely need to spend at least $50 annually on new filters, sometimes more than $100.
What to Consider When Shopping for Air Purifiers
As you survey your options for different in-home air purifiers, there are a few considerations you can use to guide your decision.
- Type of filter. The most important acronym to know about air filters is HEPA, which stands for high-efficiency particulate air. This type of filter is designed for the filtration of specific levels of airborne pollutants. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), HEPA filters "remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns." Make sure that any product you purchase contains true HEPA filters.
- Cost of maintenance. Make sure you do some research to determine how often you will need to replace the filter for a given air purifier, and how much a single replacement filter costs. This will provide you with some indication as to how much it will cost you to operate that air purifier.
- Certifications. Also check the packaging for a couple of important labels. The first label to look for is Energy Star, which certifies that the air purifier in question is at least 40 percent more energy efficient than the average model. This is a key indicator for eco-friendly shoppers. The other label to watch for is the AHAM seal, which denotes approval from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. This shows you that the unit has been tested and found to be effective. It also provides each purifier with a clean air delivery rate (CADR) score. A CADR rating is a measure of the volume of clean air that the unit can produce per minute on the highest setting.
- Room size. Air purifiers will often tell you the size room they are equipped for. A unit designed for small rooms will not work effectively as a large room air purifier. If the unit also has an AHAM seal, then the room size indicator should be fairly reliable.
- Noise level. Air purifiers are intended to run more or less all of the time, which means you don't want one that's excessively noisy. Most units will tell you about what decibel level you can expect, either on the packaging or somewhere on the website.
What are the Best Room Air Purifiers?
With these standards and considerations in mind, you can find the best home air purifier for your needs. To get you started, here are the products that we think are best, based on our own review of product specs, certifications, pricing, and user reviews.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
One of the bestselling and most well-reviewed air filters, the Hathaspace filter claims that it can filter 99.97 percent of particles from your air, including debris as small as 0.3 microns. Honeycomb-activated carbon filters help it eliminate strange smells and smoke, while "smart" settings allow it to adjust its fan speed settings in real time, adapting to any changes in air quality.
Why buy: This highly-recommended air filter is built to intelligently improve your indoor air quality and comes at a reasonable price compared to other "smart" options.
Looking for a great bargain on an air purifier? LEVOIT's Core 300 is available for a disruptively low price point, but that doesn't mean it scrimps on quality. We love this one because it is highly effective in eliminating smoke, odors, and up to 99.97 percent of airborne debris like dust mites and mold spores. It also happens to be one of the quietest air filters on the market today.
Why buy: This filter is the most affordable one on our list, but still makes an excellent filtration system for most any room.
By contrast, the Blueair Blue Pure 211+ purifier is a little pricier, but it gives you a lot of bang for your buck. That's because it's powerful enough to handle some pretty big spaces, making it a better choice if you have a lot of square feet to filter. Its carbon filter can help eliminate odors, dust, pet dander, mold particles, and more.
Why buy: This Blueair purifier gets major points for being extremely quiet and extremely modest in its energy consumption while filtering larger spaces.
Honeywell is one of the most trusted names in home appliances, so it comes as no surprise that the HPA300 air filter is a sturdy, effective product. Though very sleek and compact, it is powerful enough to purify the air in fairly large rooms.
Why buy: Honeywell happens to be the most-recommended brand among allergists, making this powerful air filter a great choice for allergy and asthma sufferers.
For something in the middle price tier, Toshiba's air purifier gets the job done. What's more, it comes with some of the best Wi-Fi home automation integrations we've come across, including voice control with Amazon Alexa. It also includes a UV light sanitizer for an additional purifying layer.
Why buy: This purifier is a great pick for middle to large rooms thanks to its 3-in-1 filter, which features a pre-filter, HEPA, and activated charcoal filter.
Finding the Best Air Purifier to Meet Your Needs
As you consider these different options for home air purifiers, make sure you take into account those bullet points we mentioned earlier: How often will you need to change the filter? How much will it cost to do so? Will the air purifier be powerful enough for your room? And does it satisfy your expectations for energy efficiency?
We've talked in the past about the best water filters for your home—and a quality air filter makes sense too. With these points in mind, look for an air purifier that will give you total confidence in the quality and health of your household air.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. His writing on natural health, nutrition, and supplements has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
Riding a bicycle is one of the most sustainable ways to get around. If you need a little more oomph than legs allow, an e-bike conversion kit is a great way to supercharge your pedal bike with electricity.
Whether you're plugging in to renewable energy sources or drawing from a conventional electric grid, electric bike kits produce far fewer emissions than fossil fuel-powered alternatives and allow you to keep your old bike you know and love.
An e-bike conversion kit makes use of your existing bike frame by replacing your standard tire or pedals with a motorized hub. Here are the best e-bike kits on the market today.
Best Electric Bike Kits
When choosing the best e-bike conversion kits, we considered elements including ease of installation, power output, ease of control, design, extra features, cost, customer reviews and more. Based on these factors, these are the top e-bike kits on the market.
|Best E-Bike Conversion Kits||Our Award||Buy Now|
Waterproof Ebike Conversion Kit
|Best Overall||Check Price|
48V 500W Front Hub Motor Electric Bike Conversion Kit
|Best Front-Wheel Conversion Kit||Check Price|
26" Rear Wheel Electric Bicycle Conversion Kit
|Best Rear-Wheel Conversion Kit||Check Price|
8FUN BBS01B 36V 250W Mid Drive Motor Conversion Kit
|Best Mid-Drive System||Check Price|
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. Learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
Best Overall: Ebikeling Waterproof Ebike Conversion Kit
The Ebikeling Waterproof Ebike Conversion Kit offers a solid, feature-packed motorized wheel hub unit to easily convert any pedal bike into a hybrid e-bike powerhouse. A weatherproof design and powerful 1,200W motor mean you can take electric propulsion anywhere your adventures take you, from street to trail.
The Ebikeling is packed with plug-and-play features like cruise control, pedal-assist mode and all of the parts needed to hook up to your bike and a battery. We especially like the multiple throttle options this unit offers, including front thumb, rear thumb and front twist. An LCD display gives you essential information on battery levels, speed, error codes and more right on your handlebar. The only downsides to this awesome package are you'll need to purchase a separate tire and battery (48V or 52V is recommended), and it's expensive.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 160 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The Ebikeling Waterproof Ebike Conversion Kit is powerful enough to tackle the toughest trails and subtle enough to cruise city streets. Simple installation and intuitive operation make this a hands-down best performer for e-bike conversion kits. If you have the budget to buy a battery (not included), the Ebikeling conversion kit is as deserving on your favorite bike as it is at the top of our list.
Best Front-Wheel Conversion Kit: Bafang 48V 500W Front Hub Motor Electric Bike Conversion Kit
Surprisingly simple to install and use, the Bafang 48V 500W Front Hub Conversion Kit is easy on the wallet and your mechanic skills. We love the multiple battery options this product offers, and a wide offering of rim sizes means you'll never find a bike that can't be e-converted. The waterproof motor and connectors make this a great front-end, go anywhere conversion kit.
The Bafang kit replaces your standard brake levers with units that communicate with the motor, but if you want to keep your hydraulic brakes, just let Bafang know in your order, and the company will ship you a brake sensor instead. Also, while this front-motor drive is designed for disk brake rims, if your bike has a V brake, Bafang's got you covered — just let the company know via email, and it'll make sure you get the right rim.
Customer Rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars with about 60 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The sticker price may shock you at first glance, but don't be fooled: Other cheaper options don't include the battery, nor come close to matching Bafang's quality and performance. The Bafang 48V 500W conversion kit is the best front hub conversion assembly that's truly ready to go out of the box.
Best Rear-Wheel Conversion Kit: Voilamart 26" Rear Wheel Electric Bicycle Conversion Kit
Voilamart makes top-shelf e-bike performance attainable for your old velocipede with a capable 1,500W electric motor and envelope-pushing quality, and the waterproof motor kit and connectors mean you can take that 1,500W of power anywhere.
Unlike other models listed here, the Voilamart comes with a pre-installed nylon tire, sparing you the hassle of self-installation or a trip to the shop. The LCD display clearly indicates battery level, pedal assistance settings, speed and modes. Cyclists get excellent control over battery life with adjustable amp modes, but keep in mind there is no battery included — you'll need to purchase one separately.
Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with nearly 100 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Voilamart's rear-wheel e-bike conversion kit offers a range of premium features at an attractive price point. The powerful motor offers enough juice to climb, splash and cruise through any terrain or street, and a wide range of modes allows great flexibility of battery life, speed and more. There are a few reported issues with design and the manual definitely needs a facelift, but most problems reported are fixed with a bit of patience and elbow grease. Overall, the Voilamart offers a compelling package at an even more compelling price point.
Best Mid-Drive System: Bafang 8FUN BBS01B 36V 250W Mid Drive Motor Conversion Kit
Balance, power and multifunctionality combine with the Bafang Mid Drive Motor conversion kit. With a few simple tools and a couple of hours, the Bafang mid-drive conversion kit replaces your existing crankset and shaft with a 250W motor ideal for cruising at moderate speeds and with light loads.
It can be installed on any road bike, mountain bike or cruising bike with a standard JIS 68-73mm bottom bracket, but isn't the best fit for rugged biking or high-speeds and shouldn't be used on fat-tire bikes or carbon frames. As far as riding modes go, the Bafang mid-drive kit is as simple as it gets with electric or pedal-only operation. Installation hardware and display are included, but the battery is sold separately.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with about 120 Amazon ratingsWhy Buy: The Bafang 8FUN BBS01B Mid Drive conversion kit honors your bike's center of gravity and aesthetics while providing the functionality and power of a hybrid motor conversion system. Bafang's mid-drive kit is a dream come true for urban commutes and light trail riding, but you might need something with a bit more pizzazz if you're hitting the mountains.
How to Choose the Best E-Bike Conversion Kit
As you can see, there are plenty of quality electric bicycle kits on the market. But which is the best for you? Here are a few things to consider when choosing your new e-bike kit.
1. How Will You Use Your E-Bike?
The most important factor to consider when purchasing an e-bike conversion kit is how you plan to use it. More powerful units are better suited for high-speed and trail riding, while lighter motors are a great option for urban commutes or cruising.
2. What Kind of Battery Pack Do You Need?
Batteries are something you don't want to skimp on. You may be able to cut a few corners with a motor and get away with it, but you'll regret buying a budget battery. Look for well-known battery brands like Panasonic, LG and Samsung. Certain batteries perform better in terms of the distance you can travel (specific energy), how they handle high-load situations like accelerating or traveling uphill (specific power) and safety. Picking the right battery is a balancing act of the activities you plan on doing with your e-bike. Nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery chemistry offer the best overall value for the average e-biker, providing a happy medium of capacity, power, safety and price.
Voltage and amps are important considerations when choosing a battery. Choosing the wrong volt/amps rating may damage your e-bike or even start a fire. E-bike motors require specific battery volts, and you should choose a battery that falls in the range of your motor's voltage requirements. Choosing a battery within the higher voltage limits of your motor's range usually translates to greater speeds.
Amps are the measure of current flow at a specific voltage. In simplistic terms, amps can be thought of as a measurement of your e-bike's torque. The higher the amps, the higher the current, and the more torque you'll have.
Watts (W) is a combination of volts and amps. Battery capacity is measured in watt-hours (Wh) and can tell you the theoretical capacity of your battery. Some manufacturers will claim 50-mile travel distances, but don't be fooled: Real-world biking scenarios are very, very different from sterile lab conditions, so most 6- to 8-pound lithium-ion batteries will actually have about a 20-mile range.
3. How Easy Is it to Install?
If you're buying an e-bike conversion kit because a dedicated e-bike isn't in the budget, you may also opt to install the kit yourself, so ease of installation is a must. All of the conversion kits listed above have glowing reviews for no-sweat installation, but there are a few reported hiccups: Some filing may need to be done here or there, a spacer or washer may need to be added and the manual's language may be difficult to follow.
Watch as many tutorial videos as you can (hint: search "your bike model" + "your e-bike conversion kit"). And as always, be patient and consult a bike repair professional if necessary.
4. How Much Speed Do You Need?
In more than 30 states, e-bikes are organized into three classes as defined by speed, wattage and operation. Typically, Class I and II bikes are allowed wherever regular pedal bikes roam. Here's a breakdown of each class:
- Class I: E-bikes that are pedal-assist only, having no throttle and attaining a max speed of 20 mph
- Class II: Throttle-equipped e-bikes with a max speed of 20 mph
- Class III: Pedal-assist only with a maximum assisted speed of 28 mph
No class can exceed a max motor power of 750W (one horsepower). In some states, e-bikes over 750W are considered motor vehicles, making them subject to certain laws and regulations. Check your state's motor vehicle department to see if these rules apply to you.
5. What Intuitive Features Do You Want?
Each manufacturer designs its e-bikes differently. Some control features are simple, such as pedal-activated assist modes. Others require you to toggle the settings from a control monitor. Consider other control designs like throttle and braking configurations. The last thing you want are controls that make you think twice while on the road, creating an unsafe and cumbersome riding experience.
6. What Design Are You Looking For?
There's no sugar-coating it: Your classy old Schwinn road bike is going to look different with a motor and battery strapped to it. If you prefer to not wear your tech on your sleeve, there are plenty of options for as sleek and low-tech a look as possible, such as hidden batteries, low-profile or no-profile speed displays and more. If performance is your salient consideration, a slew of techy add-ons are at your disposal.
7. What's Your Budget?
Finally, cost. Balance the considerations above and choose an e-bike conversion kit that fits your budget. If you need to skimp a bit on price, don't do it with the battery.
FAQ: Electric Bike Kits
How much does an e-bike conversion kit cost?
The best e-bike conversion kits cost between $320-$700.
What is the best electric bike conversion kit?
We recommend the Ebikeling Waterproof Ebike Conversion Kit to turn your regular bike into an electric bicycle.
Are e-bike conversion kits worth it?
If you have a pedal bike you love, conversion kits are an excellent investment, offering solid performance at a price point significantly lower than a brand new dedicated e-bike. E-bikes allow you to go farther, faster and longer than pedaling alone but still provide great exercise.
E-bikes are also an inclusive means of getting around, as they open the world of cycling to those who may otherwise be unable to ride a bike due to age or physical abilities. They're a safe, affordable and efficient way to supercharge any old bike into a trail-crushing, commute-slaying, road-riding machine.
How fast does a 1000-watt electric bike go?
A 1,000-watt e-bike can reach a top speed of 35 mph.
Christian Yonkers is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, and outdoor junkie obsessed with the intersectionality between people and planet. He partners with brands and organizations with social and environmental impact at their core, assisting them in telling stories that change the world.
Air pollution has been linked to an increased risk of progressive and irreversible vision loss, a large, long-term study found.
University College London researchers hypothesized that air pollution might heighten the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), Science Daily reported. It described how scientists drew on data from 115,954 study participants aged 40-69 with no eye problems at the start of the study in 2006. Followups with 52,602 of the participants in 2009 and 2012 measured structural changes in retina thickness and/or the number of light receptors present — both indicators of AMD. Ambient air pollution measures were combined with official traffic, land use and topography information to estimate the annual average air pollution levels at participants' home addresses during this same time period.
Comparing that data, the findings, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, showed that all air pollutants — except for coarse particulate matter — were associated with changes in retinal structure. Alarmingly, people living in the most polluted areas were at least eight percent more likely to report having AMD.
"People who live in a more polluted area report macular degeneration more frequently," Paul Foster, a professor of glaucoma studies and ophthalmic epidemiology and the study's lead author, told CNN.
"Even relatively low exposure to air pollution appears to impact the risk of AMD, suggesting that air pollution is an important modifiable risk factor affecting risk of eye disease for a very large number of people," he told Science Daily.
According to the National Eye Institute, AMD is an eye disease that can blur the sharp, central vision needed for activities such as reading, driving, cooking and recognizing faces. CNN reported that the biggest risk factors are genetics, old age and smoking and that AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50 in high-income countries.
CNN reported that the main pollutants linked to AMD are PM2.5, which mainly comes from power plants, industrial and vehicle emissions, and nitrogen dioxide and oxide nitrogen, which derive from motor vehicle exhaust, indoor gas stoves and kerosene heaters.
Dirty air has previously been linked to glaucoma, and a link to cataracts is suspected, The Guardian reported. High blood flow in the eyes makes them particularly vulnerable to damage caused by tiny particles that are inhaled and enter the bloodstream.
For much the same reason, air pollution has similarly been linked with heart disease, respiratory ailments and cancer. Tiny pollution particles can also enter the brainstems of young people, causing damage that has been linked to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and stroke.
All of this adds to the general concern around air pollution because the World Health Organization estimated that 90 percent of the world's population breathes air that exceeds safe levels. Two separate 2020 studies found that air pollution has shortened human life expectancy by three years and that it was responsible for more than 6.6 million deaths worldwide in 2020.
Of his study, Foster told Science Daily, "Here we have identified yet another health risk posed by air pollution, strengthening the evidence that improving the air we breathe should be a key public health priority."
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The plant is spewing high and dangerous amounts of smelly hydrogen sulfide gas and soot into the air above Catawba, South Carolina and nearby counties. While emergency orders have been issued to stop the smell created by the New-Indy Containerboard paper mill, no regulatory actions have been taken to curb their air pollution.
Issues began after an investment group led by Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots football team, acquired the mill in 2019 for about $300 million, Reuters reported. It was previously owned and run by Montreal-based Resolute Forest Products Inc.
Towards the end of 2020, the plant shut down to convert to making cardboard instead of bleached paper products. This manufacturing switch also led to a build up of fiber waste in collection bins, which likely elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide output, a New-Indy corrective action plan filed with regulators said, Reuters reported.
"Hydrogen sulfide is a gas formed by decaying organic matter — in this case waste from the paper mill," WFAE reported. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), absorbing hydrogen sulfide through the skin or inhaling it can cause everything from nausea and headaches to skin and eye irritation to delirium and convulsions.
In February, the New-Indy plant reopened after completing its processing conversion, and complaints began pouring in of a noxious smell, reported WBTV.
"Sour, pungent, sharp distinct smell," said Bridget Francis, who also lives in the nearby Legacy Park neighborhood, reported WBTV in March. The news agency described the fumes as "a smell so strong it is almost indescribable" and likened it to "rotten eggs, nail polish, sewage and more."
In March, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) told WBTV that the smell was not toxic and that they thought it could be related to the paper plant switching from white to cardboard processing. New Indy Containerboard paper plant is 25 minutes from the Legacy Park neighborhood.
Nevertheless, DHEC set up a complaints hotline. Since its inception in March, over 30,000 complaints have been filed about the smell, some even from North Carolinians. And, the issue wasn't just an olfactory nuisance: Some residents reported symptoms of nausea, headaches and burning in their eyes, throats and lungs, WBTV reported. These are the same symptoms that the CDC associates with exposure to hydrogen sulfide.
By April, DHEC discovered that the manufacturing change had indeed created a total reduced sulfide ("TRS") residual, which does often smell like rotting eggs. An Environmental Affairs Bureau of Air Quality Inspection/Investigation Report found that the New-Indy mill is exceeding its annual capacity for burning fuels by almost double the maximum allowed, WBTV reported.
According to Reuters, an April site visit to the mill by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uncovered hydrogen sulfide levels as high as 15,900 parts per billion. Breathing problems, headaches and nausea can occur from prolonged exposures between 2,000 and 5,000 parts per billion, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said, Reuters reported. Death can even occur from concentrated exposures, the news report added.
DHEC's investigation also uncovered issues related to the mill's handling of wastewater. WFAE reported that the mill began diverting "foul-smelling liquids" into an open-air lagoon instead of to their incinerator and steam stripper — devices used to remove contaminants from industrial waste before they are released — when it began its conversion to cardboard manufacturing in Nov. 2021.
Unfortunately, along with hydrogen sulfide, the mill also releases dangerous levels of soot. The amounts of soot even rival and beat the release levels of the country's largest oil refineries, Reuters reported. Despite this, no regulatory action has been taken against New-Indy for this air pollution crisis.
Soot is actually small particulate pollution, which is "among the most harmful pollutants," Reuters noted. In New-Indy's case, the soot comes from burning wet bark and old tires in power milling operations.
New-Indy's most recent stack test, from 2020, revealed small particle pollution that maxed out at nearly 300 pounds an hour, Reuters reported. This is as much as 50 times higher than other large U.S. paper mills, the news report noted after an examination of disclosures with the EPA. For contrast, the news report offered Exxon Mobil Corp's Baton Rouge oil refinery, which averaged 138 pounds an hour during its latest available stack test. This was already the highest among U.S. refiners, Reuters noted.
Despite this, regulators told Reuters that the mill's performance was "within federal limits."
New-Indy's 2016 stack test, conducted when it was still run by Resolute Forest Products, measured particulate matter production at the same boiler averaging around 100 pounds per hour, or 36% less than the 2020 average rate, the news report added.
Other comparable paper mills can operate with "only 13 pounds per hour of small particle pollution," Reuters noted.
"I haven't seen anything like this in 20 years," Amy Armstrong, executive director of the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP), told the news report.
In May, state and federal orders were finally given to New-Indy. The EPA issued an emergency order for the New-Indy plant to reduce hydrogen sulfide emissions and to install air pollution monitors around the plant, Reuters reported. According to The State, DHEC's order merely asks New-Indy to check its regulations and equipment in order to decrease emissions.
In July, the federal government issued an injunction under the Clean Air Act against New-Indy, WSOC reported. Data from July 9 showed that hydrogen sulfide was still detected in all five neighborhoods where the monitors have been placed, the report noted. The injunction will serve "essentially [as] a follow-up" to make sure the company continues to follow requirements set by the EPA.
Additionally, three federal lawsuits have been filed against the mill owners, alleging that the odor is harming local families, WFAE reported.
Currently, residents are still awaiting a solution to their health and air pollution crisis. As one resident told the EPA, "We are prisoners in our own smelly home."
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When countries began going into lockdown last winter and spring, clearer skies from reduced traffic and industry were hailed as a rare bright spot during a difficult time.
But a study published in Geophysical Research Letters in December 2020 shows that those blue skies had an unexpected side effect: They made the Earth slightly warmer.
"There was a big decline in emissions from the most polluting industries, and that had immediate, short-term effects on temperatures," said Andrew Gettelman, lead author and National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist. "Pollution cools the planet, so it makes sense that pollution reductions would warm the planet."
Soot and sulfate air pollution had the biggest impact, the study authors explained. Known as aerosols, these types of pollutants release particles into the atmosphere that either scatter sunlight on clear days or brighten clouds, reflecting sunlight. Both of these impacts mean less sunlight reaches Earth and temperatures cool.
In 2020, a reduction of these pollutants warmed global temperatures by about 0.1 to 0.3 degrees Celsius, the press release explained. The effect increased in places with higher aerosol emissions. Temperatures over China, Russia and the U.S. were as much as 0.37 degrees Celsius warmer, The Associated Press reported. All told, aerosol reduction may have contributed to 2020 experiencing one of the warmest years on record, NASA Climate Scientist Gavin Schmidt, who was not involved in the research, told The Associated Press.
To reach their conclusions, the researchers compared the actual weather with climate models reproducing the same conditions without the lockdowns and subsequent emission reductions. This allowed them to calculate the impact of reduced aerosols on temperature changes that were too small to identify based solely on observations, the press release explained.
The study found that aerosol reduction had a bigger impact on 2020 temperatures than the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide. However, that may change in the future. Because carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere longer, the lockdown dip in greenhouse gases may still slow down the climate crisis in the long term.
Gettelman emphasized that the study's message is not that we should pollute more.
"Clean air warms the planet a tiny bit, but it kills a lot fewer people with air pollution," Gettelman told The Associated Press.
Instead, the value of the study involves understanding aerosols' impact on the climate, according to the press release. This can then help scientists more effectively combat climate change.
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A reusable cotton mask can go through a year of washes without losing its efficacy, a new study finds. Luis Alvarez / DigitalVision / Getty Images
There is growing concern about how the single-use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that we have all begun wearing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic may add to plastic pollution already plaguing our environment.
Now, there is good news for anyone hoping to protect themselves sustainably with a cloth mask. A new study published in Aerosol and Air Quality Research has found that a reusable cotton mask can go through a year of washes without losing its efficacy.
"This is good news for the environment because a reusable mask is likely to be more sustainable than a disposable one," study co-author and University of Colorado Boulder assistant professor Marina Vance told EcoWatch in an email.
A Year's Worth of Washes
To test the efficacy of cloth masks over time, Vance and her team replicated the process of washing two-layer cotton fabric sample coupons once a week for a year, or 52 times.
"Our colleagues at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) prepared double-layered cloth coupons and performed sequential washing and drying cycles in a controlled manner, using commercial equipment," Vance explained.
Every seven washes, the researchers then tested how well the masks could filter out particles. They did this by attaching the coupons to the end of a steel funnel and controlling the flow of air and particles through the opening, a University of Colorado Boulder press release detailed. They tried to replicate real life conditions by testing the coupons under high heat and humidity conditions similar to human breathing.
"Our laboratory tested the filtration efficiency and inhalation resistance of all samples and found that, even after many washes, the filtration efficiency did not improve or deteriorate," Vance said. "It remained roughly the same. The inhalation resistance increased slightly, which means that the material lost some of its breathability, but not enough to impact its usefulness."
Vance said the results should apply to any mask made from cotton.
A New Threat
The results come amidst an increasing awareness that single-use PPE is a new and harmful category of litter.
Since the pandemic began, around 7,200 tons of medical waste has been generated every day, the press release noted, much of that disposable face masks. Another study found that, since the pandemic began, nearly three million face masks have been used per minute.
Researchers and environmental advocates have already observed these items joining the rest of the pollution littering our parks and beaches. Ocean Conservancy volunteers documented and collected 107,219 pieces of PPE from July 2020 to January 2021. Further, 94 percent of volunteers said they saw PPE while on a litter clean-up and 50 percent said they saw PPE litter on a daily basis.
There is also already evidence that this new pollution is hurting wildlife. A Dutch research team published the first scientific account of animals being impacted by PPE in March of 2021, and continues to document new instances on a website. The researchers observed a fish caught in a plastic glove and found face masks woven into birds' nests. They also reported cases around the world of animals becoming entangled or trapped in PPE or mistaking it for food.
"We signal COVID-19 litter as a new threat to animal life as the materials designed to keep us safe are actually harming animals around us," the study authors wrote.
In addition, PPE such as disposable masks can contribute to the problem of microplastic pollution. Ocean Conservancy further observed that a single mask could release as many as 173,000 plastic microfibers into the environment.
What Mask Should I Wear?
All of this new evidence has led some to recommend avoiding disposable PPE.
"To minimize the amount of COVID-19 litter and its effect on nature, we urge that, when possible, reusable alternatives are used," the authors behind the Dutch study advised. "People may suffer from the coronavirus pandemic, but nature is getting sick of our plastic."
In this context, finding out that reusable cotton masks hold up after a year of washing is good news. However, the most recent study also tested the effectiveness of several mask alternatives for filtering out particles of 0.3 microns, which is the size that the coronavirus can travel on. As Vance explained to EcoWatch:
The reason we test for particles down to and below 300 nm in diameter is because that particle size range is where most filters (masks or others) are least effective. This is due to physical reasons. We make sure to cover all sizes, including this size range. This size range is also known as the "most penetrating particle size range." The choice of testing at the 300 nm size range has nothing to do with the coronavirus. The virus can travel on particles of that size or larger and it's more likely to travel on larger particles or droplets.
The study found that N95 and KN95 respirators could filter out 83 to 99 percent of 0.3 micron particles on average and surgical masks could filter out 42 to 88 percent of them, but cloth masks could only filter out 16 to 23 percent and bandannas only 9 percent.
Vance advised balancing sustainability and personal health by making situation-based mask decisions.
"My recommendation is to consider layering up a cloth plus surgical mask if you think you will be in a higher risk situation and simply using a cloth mask if you think that you are in a lower-risk situation," she said.
If you do use disposable masks, there are still steps you can take to protect wildlife, the authors of the Dutch study noted, such as cutting the ear straps before throwing them away.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement by professor Marina Vance clarifying the testing process.
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New York City's air quality was the worst in the world on Tuesday, posing a danger to everyone, not just groups considered more vulnerable than the general population. Even thinned by its 2,500 mile journey across the continent, smoke was so thick George Pope, a professor of earth and environmental studies at Montclair State University, couldn't see Manhattan from his New Jersey office.
"You can pretty much always see the skyline, at least a silhouette, if it's a hazy day," he told The Guardian. "This is, like, this is unprecedented." Nearly 80 large wildfires have burned more than 1.3 million acres across 13 states so far this year.
As reported by The Associated Press:
"These fires are going to be burning all summer," said University of Washington wildfire smoke expert Dan Jaffe. "In terms of bad air quality, everywhere in the country is to going to be worse than average this year."
Growing scientific research points to potential long-term health damage from breathing in microscopic particles of smoke. Authorities have scrambled to better protect people from the harmful effects but face challenges in communicating risk to vulnerable communities and people who live very far away from burning forests.
For a deeper dive:
Air quality: The Guardian, AP, Axios, Today Show, The Hill; Fires: Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Hill; Health risks: AP explainer; Photos: Buzzfeed; Climate Signals background: 2021 Western wildfire season
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Is Paris trading "la vie en rose" for "la vie en verte?"
The Mayor of the French capital, Anne Hidalgo, told newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche Sunday that the city would follow through on a $305 million project to transform the iconic Champs-Élysées into a haven for plants and pedestrians, as UPI reported.
"[I]t will be [another] extraordinary garden," Hidalgo said.
The changes are being designed by architect Philippe Chiambaretta of PCA-STREAM and include halving vehicle traffic and expanding sidewalks for pedestrians while creating "planted living rooms."
The 1.2 mile avenue is also an eight-lane highway used by an average of 3,000 vehicles per hour and is currently more polluted than the road that surrounds Paris, The Guardian pointed out. The new greenery is partly intended to improve air quality.
Chiambaretta said the avenue had become a symptom of the problems with modern cities: "pollution, the place of the car, tourism and consumerism", according to The Guardian. He said it needed to become more "ecological, desirable and inclusive."
The new plans for the avenue were first presented by the Champs-Élysées committee in 2019, The Guardian reported at the time. The committee, made up of people who live, work or own businesses along the avenue, thought it needed to be revitalized to appeal to everyday Parisians.
Indeed, Chiambaretta said at the time that 72 percent of the 100,000 people who walked there daily were tourists, while 22 percent were employed there.
"It's often called the world's most beautiful avenue, but those of us who work here every day are not at all sure about that. The Champs-Élysées has more and more visitors and big name businesses battle to be on it, but to French people it's looking worn out," Champs-Élysées committee president Jean-Noël Reinhardt said in 2019.
Now, Reinhardt and his committee are pleased that Hidalgo is honoring their vision.
"The legendary avenue has lost its splendour during the last 30 years. It has been progressively abandoned by Parisians and has been hit by several successive crises: the gilets jaunes, strikes, health and economic," the committee said in a statement reported by The Independent.
Hidalgo told Le Journal du Dimanche that the Champs-Élysées' green makeover is part of a larger project to transform the city "before and after 2024," when Paris will host the Olympics. The work on the avenue will not start until after 2024, but the Place de la Concorde will be redone before that date, according to UPI.
Other plans include placing more greenery, ponds and fountains around the Eiffel Tower, The Independent reported. The Pont d'Iéna, which links the famous tower to Trocadéro, will also be greened and lined with trees before 2024.The urban renewal project "Reinventing Paris" first started in 2014 and also includes a cleanup of the Seine, CNN
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Nearly 43,000 Californians are under evacuation orders as more than 13,500 firefighters battle a dozen large wildfires across the state. The most urgent, officials said Monday, was the Caldor Fire which blew through the 100,000-acre mark over the weekend, burning more than 30,000 acres in two days — a rate of just under eight football fields every minute — and was "knocking on the door of the Lake Tahoe basin," Cal Fire Director Thom Porter told reporters Monday.
As reported by the Mercury News:
The fire, which has destroyed more than 550 buildings in El Dorado County, had ignited 114,166 acres by Monday night as officials continued to sound alarms. The blaze has such destructive potential that it has jumped to the front of the line when it comes to allocating personnel, fire trucks, aircraft and other tools from around the country, Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter said during a briefing Monday.
"It is that important," he said. "It is knocking on the door to the Lake Tahoe basin. We have all efforts in place to keep it out of the basin, but we do also need to be aware that that is a possibility based on the way the fires have been burning."
The fire has already incinerated more than 500 buildings of the nearly 2,000 buildings destroyed statewide this year. Just 9% contained, the Caldor Fire threatened more than 17,000 structures as of Monday evening and smoke from its flames made Lake Tahoe's air quality the worst in the nation.
"The entire western United States is having fire problems right now," Diana Swart, a spokesperson for the Amador El Dorado unit of Cal Fire, told The Guardian. "When we can we will get resources from out of state, but they are also working their fires as well."
For a deeper dive:
Paradise: NPR; Statewide: AP; Caldor Fire: The Guardian, KCRA Sacramento, The New York Times, CNN, The New York Times, Mercury News, Tahoe Daily Tribune; Air quality: Los Angeles TImes; Climate Signals background: Wildfires, Drought, 2021 Western wildfire season
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Most people know that trees are great for providing shade, clean air and natural beauty for our landscapes. What you might not know is that neglecting trees and avoiding regular pruning and maintenance can have an adverse effect on the environment.
How Do Neglected Trees Affect the Environment?
Trees seem to grow happily and healthily without our intervention, so many people believe they don't require regular maintenance. Unfortunately, there are several adverse effects unmaintained trees can have on the environment. These include:
1. Diseased Trees Can Infect Nearby Trees
No matter where you live, there are a variety of tree diseases and tree pests that can wreak havoc on neglected trees. Some of the common issues that affect trees in most areas of the U.S. include anthracnose, leaf spots, powdery mildew, root rot, aphids, ash borers, Asian longhorn beetles and gypsy moths.
Diseases, fungi and insects are all more likely to attack and infect weakened and neglected trees. Not only are unmaintained trees at a higher risk of infestation and infection, but they can also spread the issue to other nearby trees. Fallen leaves, dropped sticks and even roots of an unhealthy tree can all spread an insect infestation or tree disease rapidly, potentially killing off many trees.
2. Neglected Trees Don't Grow as Healthily
Even if your tree isn't diseased or pest-ridden, neglecting it can negatively affect the environment. Regular pruning is recommended for all trees, because it promotes healthy growth and limits competition between your tree's limbs. Failing to prune your tree can mean more resources are consumed without any benefit to the tree or the environment.
Pruned and well-maintained trees will contribute more clean air to the space around them, and they'll be less likely to be affected by disease or tree-destroying insects.
3. They Deplete the Soil of Nutrients
All trees pull nutrients from the soil to maintain growth, even if they're diseased, infested with pests or have overlapping and uncontrolled limbs that are competing for sunlight and resources.
A neglected tree will pull more nutrients from the soil because of the uninhibited growth of limbs, branches and leaves. You'll be depleting the soil of essential components for no added benefit to the environment. A well-maintained tree will always be a better use of the nutrients in your soil.
How Do Trees Benefit the Environment?
It's widely known that trees improve the air quality, provide us with much-needed oxygen and offer a habitat for beneficial wildlife. However, there are additional benefits even beyond these obvious ones.
Trees Clean Our Water Supply
Many cities throughout the U.S. rely on groundwater as a public water supply. Groundwater sources, including private wells, are most often refilled by runoff from precipitation. The root system of a healthy tree will naturally pull pollutants out of rainwater as it seeps through the ground and into our water sources. More trees generally mean cleaner, healthier water for bathing, cooking and drinking.
Trees Improve the Weather
Yes, really! Trees naturally reduce temperatures and moisture in the air, making the climate more comfortable. The more trees that appear in a city, the less likely sunlight and heat are to reflect off the ground and warm the air around us.
Additionally, trees provide shade for us, our cars and our homes. Shading from sunlight can drastically reduce how hot our immediate environment gets.
Trees Reduce Energy Costs
Finally, the shade provided by trees that keeps homes cooler in the summer can help reduce air conditioner usage and energy bills. Properties with more tree coverage will naturally pay less for cooling in the summer months. Reduced energy usage, of course, has a positive impact on the environment.
What Does Proper Tree Maintenance Look Like?
Proper tree maintenance isn't all that complicated, and the benefits you can enjoy when you maintain your trees far outweigh the cost and effort of the upkeep.
Most importantly, you should have regular pruning done at least once a year. Pruning will promote healthy limb and branch growth, help protect your trees from pests and tree diseases, and reduce the likelihood of dead or dying branches and limbs falling on your property.
Secondly, you should ensure your tree receives enough water each week, especially in the hotter summer months. The amount of water needed will depend on the size, age and species of the tree, but plan to water at least one to two times per week.
Thirdly, mulching around the base of your trees is an excellent way to promote healthy root growth and nutrient uptake. Mulch naturally holds water in the soil for the tree to drink, and it will eventually break down and replenish nutrients required for healthy growth.
Finally, keep an eye on your trees and contact an arborist for treatment if you notice any symptoms of pest infestation or disease.
5 Signs That a Tree Is Not Healthy
There are many ways a tree will indicate if it's unhealthy. Keep an eye out for the most common symptoms of tree issues listed below, and report to an arborist if you're unsure of the severity of the treatment protocol.
Holes or Cankers in the Trunk
The trunk of your tree should be free of large cavities or cankers, which can indicate a variety of pests or diseases. It could be that the trunk was physically damaged by landscaping equipment, a car or other machinery, leaving it more prone to disease and insect infestation.
Holes in a tree are also a sign that woodpeckers are feeding on tree pests like bark beetles. If you notice holes in the bark of your tree, it's possible that a pest like the bark beetle has begun an infestation. Bark beetles are especially prevalent on the West Coast, especially in California, where most infections require an arborist for tree removal.
If your tree is missing sections of bark, it's very likely infected with a tree disease or fungus. Some tree-destroying pests can also cause the bark to decay and fall off, so reach out for a professional assessment if you're unsure of the cause.
Dead or Dying Branches
Healthy trees have leaves on all of their branches. If you notice leafless branches in the spring or summer, or limbs or sticks that appear dead, you might need a routine pruning or an assessment for disease.
Holes in leaves, misshapen leaves, early yellowing or browning, and premature leaf drop can all indicate an unhealthy tree. The reasons for leaf issues vary from leaf-eating insects to sap-suckers and fungal infections, so you might need an expert to diagnose the problem for you.
Finally, an unhealthy tree will often show signs of wilting, including shriveled leaves and sagging branches. The causes of wilting are varied, from excessive heat and drought to diseases like oak wilt.
By Krystal Vasquez
Before you head out to see your local fireworks display this 4th of July, you might want to consider closing your windows, replacing your HVAC filter, and running your air purifier on full blast.
While most of us know that fireworks can cause outdoor air quality to reach hazardous levels, few are aware that this pollution can affect our indoor air quality as well.
According to a recent study in Science of the Total Environment, 4th of July firework celebrations can cause concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) to rise to unhealthy levels in nearby buildings — an observation also noted by a separate set of researchers during the Chinese Spring Festival back in 2014.
These findings were made as a part of a longer, year-long study in which the researchers set up air monitoring equipment in a commercial building located outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. They wanted to determine how different forms of outdoor pollution affected indoor air quality. In the case of fireworks, the effects were noticeable "almost immediately," the researchers wrote.
In addition, both studies found this indoor pollution could remain elevated for hours after the firework displays ended. Considering that even short-term exposures to PM 2.5 can result in lung irritation, shortness of breath, and even the aggravation of medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease, this implies that this beloved holiday tradition could end up significantly impacting our health. The tiny airborne particles can also become even more toxic when mixing with pollution in our home.
Picking Up Extra Toxics in the Home
The PM 2.5 produced by fireworks can be uniquely dangerous. It usually contains toxic compounds such as copper and lead, which are often added as coloring agents. Scientists also point out that these particles can end up accumulating even more harmful substances once they enter our homes, which adds to the health consequences associated with inhaling them.
"If it's a really hot evening, but you had the air conditioning on in your house... then when that particle comes in, it might pick up some phthalates — those little plasticizer molecules in your vinyl and your linoleum flooring," Delphine Farmer, an atmospheric chemist and professor at Colorado State University who was not involved with the above studies, told EHN. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors that are linked with the development of medical conditions, such as asthma and fertility issues. And by hitching a ride on the particle, Farmer said, "you have some small probability of breathing that particle in."
Alternatively, it can also "hit one of these many surfaces [in your home] and just get stuck," she said. However, Farmer points out that this doesn't mean the danger is over: "[These particles] will live to see another day" when they are eventually released back into the air.
This is something that scientists have seen with cigarette smoke. "Things like thirdhand smoke are a really good example of where you can see effects certainly months and years later," Farmer said.
Protecting Yourself From Polluted Indoor Air
There are ways we can enjoy the holiday and protect ourselves. "Consider reducing outdoor air — so closing windows, running any fan… [and] getting as good a filter into your HVAC system as your system can handle and you can afford," Farmer said.
And if you're in an area currently experiencing a heat wave in an area where AC is rare and need to keep your windows open at night, don't worry. There's a solution for you, too.
"Consider box fans with filters attached to them. They turn out to be incredibly effective in terms of filtering air, and you can just set one of those up for about $10 or $20," Farmer said.
Reposted with permission from Environmental Health News.
While most of this summer's high heat has been concentrated over the country's West, high temperatures this week are predicted to bake much of the country. On Monday, 35 million people between the Pacific Northwest and Louisiana's Gulf Coast were already under heat alerts, CNN reported.
"Most of the Lower-48 will observe above normal temperatures through at least the first half of the week with a heat wave building into the Northern Plains," the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Prediction Center tweeted Saturday.
Most of the Lower-48 will observe above normal temperatures through at least the first half of the week with a heat… https://t.co/v593B6TRMy— NWS Weather Prediction Center (@NWS Weather Prediction Center) 1627124407.0
The highest temperatures are expected to begin in Idaho and eastern Oregon at the start of the week, then move gradually east and south through states including Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, according to CNN. All told, at least 30 million people are likely to see temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher by the end of the week, according to Axios. Further, 17 states were under heat warnings or advisories Tuesday.
The immediate cause of the heat wave is a heat dome, as Jeanine Santucci explained for USA TODAY:
A heat dome is the result of a strong change in ocean temperatures from west to east in the tropical Pacific Ocean during the preceding winter, according to the National Ocean Service. The warm air coming from the west part of the Pacific Ocean gets trapped in the jet stream as it approaches land. When that hot air arrives over land, the atmosphere traps it. Winds can move the heat dome around.
Events like these are usually a combination of short-term weather effects and the longer term impacts of the climate crisis, Santucci reported. Climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels is making heat waves longer, more frequent and more intense, Axios pointed out.
The latest heat wave is now the fifth distinct extreme heat event the U.S. has experienced this summer, and follows the country's hottest June on record. It therefore risks worsening the effects of previous high temperatures, including the wildfires burning in the West.
Idaho, for example, currently has the most wildfires of any U.S. state, with 23 now burning more than 192,000 acres, according to CNN. The state was expected to see triple digit temperatures on Monday, but was expected to cool slightly on Tuesday.
In Montana, however, which has the nation's second-highest number of large fires, temperatures could reach as high as 110 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday. In the eastern part of the state, humidity is expected to be as low as 10 percent and breezy conditions could combine with dryness and high heat to increase fire risk.
Excessive #HeatWarning in effect for Monday and Tuesday. Temperatures on Tuesday could reach 110 degrees in some lo… https://t.co/SvPpfzvm3k— NWS Billings (@NWS Billings) 1627247256.0
While heat raises fire risk, smoke from fires already burning could actually have a cooling effect in Idaho and Montana, according to CNN and Axios. However, the heat dome will also trap smoke, worsening air quality, NWS Weather Prediction Center said.
The high temperatures are expected to last through the weekend and into next week, CNN reported.
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