A couple days ago we woke up to some pretty smokey air in Albuquerque, NM. This was on Monday, June 8, 2021. Even slightly smokey air is dangerous
Below is a picture of that air. This picture doesn’t look very smokey . The foreground doesn’t look smoky at all but actually it is. We are just too close to see much smoke. But note the reddish cloud in the distance. That is all smoke . You can’t see the north Rio Grand valley at all or the mesa beyond the valley or the mountains in the far distance.
Even slightly smokey air is dangerous
And the fact that the Albuquerque air doesn’t look all that smokey is part of the point of this post. It doesn’t take much smoke in the air for it to be very dangerous. If you breath enough of it it will kill you. Dirty, smoky, and polluted air prematurely kills seven million people every year, including more than one hundred thousand Americans. It is strongly linked to strokes, heart attacks, many kinds of cancer, dementia, and premature birth, among other ailments.
And this smoke in Albuquerque is just the beginning of what is coming. In other parts of the world it is much, much worse. More on that in a bit.
Below is a little piece of the above scene a little bigger. Now you begin to get a better idea of the smoke in the air this morning in Albuquerque.
Almost none of the North Valley in Albuquerque can be seen in the above picture because of the smoke. Normally the north valley and the west mesa above the valley and even MT Taylor almost 75 miles away to the West near Grants, NM are all crystal clear.
All of the smoke in Albuquerque this morning is due to a wildfire in AZ, almost 100 miles from here. Below is a map of the location of the wildfire. It’s a long way from us but it is definitely affecting life in Albuquerque today.
Here is what CNN is saying about these two fires. It is not a minor fire.
“The Telegraph Fire has scorched 56,626 acres in and near the southern edge of Tonto National Forest and is 0% contained, according to Incident Commander Dave Bales. He said the cause of the fire is “human,” but is also still under investigation.”
“It’s a fast moving and dynamic fire,” the center’s website (InciWeb) says. Growth is attributed to the winds and the brush, such as chaparral, the center said.
Back to Albuquerque.
The air quality numbers for Albuquerque and nearby Placitas at 9:03 AM Monday morning were not good. The Placitas air quality was 115, the highest I have seen it for a long, long time. This is “unhealthy for sensitive groups.’
Albuquerque air quality is listed as 121. This is also, “unhealthy for sensitive groups.’
This of course is nothing compared to Delhi in India. Delhi usually has the worst air quality in the world. Its air quality numbers are usually in the two hundreds and worse.
In Delhi this morning the air quality number is 227. Millions die every year from poor air quality in Delhi. Our air quality in the US is no where this bad yet. But it will be one day if we don’t do something about it. We did see air like this in CA last year and the year before during the huge California wildfires though.
All of this is an indirect result of global warming. Hotter and drier weather and hotter and drier vegetation end up causing devastating wildfires all over the earth. This morning’s air in Albuquerque is just the first indication of the 2021 summer wildfire season that is bound to get much worse in the American west in NM and in Albuquerque this summer.
And that fire season is definitely coming. The Southwest is incredibly dry right now. Below is a history of the drought in the Southwest, including NM for the past 20 years. The drought maps below are all for early spring. The top left map is 2021 and the bottom right map is 2000. The darker the color of the map, the worse the drought. It is not lookin good for 2021. Look at the maps for 2013 and 2014, the first two in the second row on the left. I remember those years and it was bad. Heat, wind, fire and smoke all summer long. And, according to these maps, this summer is going to be much worse.
Even smokey air like we have in Albuquerque today, which is not terribly bad, has a negative effect on health.
And air like the West Coast had almost all of last summer and for the several years before is tremendously bad for human health.
The best book on air quality and its surprising effect on health is “Choked: Life and Breath in the age of Air Pollution” by Beth Gardiner. Even slightly smoky air, like the air we had in Albuquerque causes all kinds of medical problems in humans. Gardiner says that “Around the world dirty air causes 7 million early deaths annually, more than aids, diabetes and traffic accidents combined.” She goes on to say that “In Britain, air pollution is second only to smoking as a health risk, causing as many as a fifth of all deaths.”
Another important book on this subject is “The invisible Killer: The rising global threat of Air Pollution and how we can fight back” by Gary Fuller.