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Image: Haze from Wildfires Hangs Over West Coast
The Suomi NPP satellite snapped this photo of haze from wildfires throughout the northwest United States hanging over the West Coast on Sept. 24, 2012.
Credit: NOAA/NASA

A dingy blanket of smoke now hangs over the Northwest — as seen in this image captured yesterday (Sept. 24) by the Suomi NPP satellite — due to wildfires throughout the region.

These fires have released a lot of smoke and particulate matter into the air, causing unhealthy conditions in parts of Washington and Oregon, according to the Smog Blog at the University of Maryland. This has been a continuing problem this year; smoke from wildfires has repeatedly reduced air quality throughout the country, as winds have easily blown the smoke to the Atlantic Ocean and beyond. 

It's been a bad year for wildfires, partially due to the intense drought gripping much of the country that turns plants into tinder. If current rates continue, wildfires will burn more acres in 2012 than in any year since records began being kept in 1960, according to NASA.

Wildfires raged in Colorado and throughout the Southwest earlier this summer, before the flames shifted west and north.

The Northwest is now the hardest hit area. As of today (Sept. 25), there are 17 large wildfires burning in the states of Washington, Montana and Idaho, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

In the entire U.S., there are 24 large fires in eight states. Altogether the blazes have charred 13,594 square miles (35,210 square kilometers). That's above the 10-year average for this date, which is 10,250 square miles (26,550 square km).

Reach Douglas Main at dmain@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @Douglas_Main. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook and Google+.