Smoke from a Distant Fire

Have a look at these images of the smoke plume being generated by fires in forests and other wildlands in the western United States.

Smoke from enormous wildfires located primarily in California and Oregon obscures ground features across the Mid-Atlantic States this morning.  Lake Ontario and the Finger Lakes of New York are the most readily identifiable landmarks in the center of the image.  The Lower Susquehanna River Watershed is indiscernible beneath the dense blanket of haze.  (CIRA/NOAA image)
This morning’s satellite image of the United States and the North Atlantic looks like an illustration one might find in a meteorology textbook showing examples of a variety of extreme atmospheric phenomena.  There’s something going on everywhere.  (CIRA/NOAA image)
Here we’ve labeled the major stuff.  There are two hurricanes (Sally and Teddy), a tropical storm (Vicky), and three tropical depressions, each labeled “T.D.”.  A strong cold front in central Canada is making its way toward the eastern United States.  Dust from the Sahara continues to stream into the Americas and the gray-brown plume of smoke from wildfires in the Pacific Coast States stretches thousands of miles east into the North Atlantic.  (CIRA/NOAA base image)

While viewing these amazing images, consider for a moment the plight of migrating birds.  Each one struggles to survive the energy-depleting effects of wind, distance, storm, cold, drought, dust, and sometimes even smoke as it strives to reach its breeding grounds each spring and its wintering grounds each fall.  Natural and man-made effects can cause migrating birds to become disoriented.  Songbirds are known to become lost at sea.  Others strike objects including buildings and radio towers, particularly when visibility is impaired.  The dangers seem endless.

Neotropical migrants must somehow navigate the maze of perils that lie between their breeding grounds in the north and their wintering habitats in tropical climates (designated here using blue stars).  (CIRA/NOAA base image)

For migrating birds, places of refuge where they can stop to feed and rest during their long journeys are essential to their survival.  For species attempting flights through conditions as extreme as those seen in these images, there is the potential for significant loss of life, particularly among the birds with less than optimal stores of energy.

During their southbound autumn migration to tropical wintering grounds in Central America, some Ruby-throated Hummngbirds will attempt a non-stop flight across the Gulf of Mexico, a route requiring maximum stores of energy.  Keep those feeders clean and full of fresh provisions!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.