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See a satellite view of wildfire smoke from Canada across the U.S.

This NASA Earth Observatory satellite image taken Wednesday shows smoke spreading into New York and Pennsylvania. (NASA Earth Observatory/AFP/Getty Images)

Smoke from Canadian wildfires blanketed the East Coast of the United States on Wednesday, prompting health concerns in cities with “Code Red” air quality warnings and grounded flights. A low pressure weather system is driving the smoke south.

The latest generation of weather satellites have captured smoke engulfing large parts of the United States. Images produced by Colorado State University, Cooperative Institute for Atmospheric Research, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (CSU/CIRA & NOAA).

Dakota Smith, CIRA’s satellite analyst, went a step further and animated the images – showing how weather systems and fires interacted during May and early June.

Here are some of the animations Smith made:

Satellite images show fires burning in Quebec on June 6. (Video: (CSU/CIRA & NOAA))

As wildfires raged in Quebec on Tuesday, footage showed smoke pouring into the United States. “This group of fires is the main culprit for the smoky skies across the northeastern US,” Smith said.

There are hundreds of active fires across Canada, many of which are listed as “out of control” by the Canadian Interagency Center for Wildfires.

How long will wildfire smoke last? Here is the latest air quality forecast.

Canada is on track to experience one of the worst wildfire seasons in modern history, experts say. Millions of hectares of land were destroyed by fire.

A low pressure system is pushing smoke to the south

Satellite images taken on June 6 showed a low pressure system responsible for pushing smoke from Canada across the US East Coast (Video: (CSU/CIRA & NOAA))

Here, the satellite shows how a low-pressure weather system is redirecting, like a judo throw, smoke toward the East Coast of the United States.

A low-pressure weather system north of New England near Maine is pulling an unusually large amount of smoke south along the East Coast, said Jacob DeFlitch, a forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Seattle office. He said the weather system was simply sitting on the coast.

The smoke stretched as far as the Carolinas, prompting health advisories that affected millions of Americans.

How to protect yourself from forest smoke

Satellite images taken on May 30 show large plumes of smoke moving from Nova Scotia over the northeastern US (Video: (CSU/CIRA & NOAA))

Meteorologists and forecasters already started talking about the smoke a week ago, Smith said. This video shows the first plumes of smoke along Nova Scotia on May 30.

He said it was enough to cause concern in his world. Now those wispy smudges look like nothing compared to the smoke that settled in New York and Washington, DC

The fire spread east to Nova Scotia before hitting Quebec, where most of the smoke is now being produced.

Satellite images taken on May 20 show a swirl of smoke reaching the central US (Video: (CSU/CIRA & NOAA))

This is a close-up of smoke drifting over the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States.

“It almost looks like smoke is pouring in the northeastern United States,” said Smith, the satellite specialist.

The wind in this area usually moves from the west to the east, but then it encountered a low pressure system that rotates counterclockwise.

What would happen to the smoke if there was no low pressure system? “Maybe it would bring something from the US,” he said, “…but it certainly wouldn’t be going down to New York.”

There is good news, Smith said: The system appears to be weakening.

He said it’s moving west, meaning some of the smoke could start moving into the American Midwest.

“I would like to hope that today was the worst,” he said on Wednesday.

The land — and the records — burned

Satellite images taken on May 15 show wildfires and plumes of smoke in western Canada. (Video: (CSU/CIRA & NOAA))

This video shows the smoky wildfires in Western Canada from 12:30pm to 10pm on May 15th.

Western Canada hasn’t had much snowfall this winter. That, along with record heat, has made the area susceptible to wildfires, said Mike Flannigan, a professor of fire science at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia.

The strange thing, he said, is that the fires spread across the country and lasted so long.

“We’re seeing more burned areas than we have today,” he said.

Footage from June 6 shows thick smoke from Canada settling across the Northeast. (Video: (CSU/CIRA & NOAA))

The “new reality” for North Americans will include more smoke events like this due to climate change, Flannigan said.

Flannigan, who has been tracking wildfires since the late 1970s, said he’s never seen a season like this in Canada — and it may continue to rage for months.

“It’s a huge piece of real estate and it’s going to continue to burn,” he said.

Not every year will be this bad, he added, but these spells of intense smoke from Canada will come more frequently.

“Canada is known for exporting cold fronts, hockey players and smoke,” he said. “Maybe you can live with our hockey players.”

Editing by Kyle Rempfer. Video editing by Hadley Green and Neeti Upadhyay.

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