In a future with more wildfires, there will also be more smoke

December 10, 2017

A family wears face masks as they walk through the smoke-filled streets of Ventura, California, on December 6th, 2017. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Over the past few days, the mountains of Santa Barbara have slowly disappeared in a cloud of smoke. As the Thomas Fire continues to burn along the coast, Santa Barbara’s green slopes have faded away behind a wall of yellow haze.

In the longer term, many communities will need to develop strategies that will serve them in case fires and smoke become annual or near-annual events. “That was what we were saying here all summer, that this is the new normal,” Brauer says. This past summer, Vancouver, British Columbia, where he is based, endured thick, smoky air from nearby wildfires for about a week. “You kept hearing the word ‘apocalypse,'” Brauer says.