NASA's Aqua Earth-observing satellite yesterday snapped photos of heavy smoke from wildfires in the Quebec woods recently ignited by lightning. Some of the fires are burning just south of the famous Manicouagan meteor crater, which is visible in the right center of the photograph. Many Baltimoreans will recall the wood smoke from Canadian fires that drifted south into Maryland back in 2002.
But take a look at this satellite image. Enlarge it and scroll north of the ST. Lawrence River and the smoke on the right side of the image, you'll see a circular lake. That's the Manicouagan crater. Here's another view, in winter, and some discussion of the crater's history. And here is a gallery of images of the crater.
Geologists believe the crater, 40 miles wide, was formed by an impact more than 200 million years ago. It has been worn down since by erosion and glaciers, and is now filled by a lake that backed up behind a hydroelectric dam.
Here's the story that ran in The Sun July 8, 2002, about the Canadian fires and the smoke that blew all the way to Baltimore.
Northern haze blankets Md.
Smoke of Canadian fires drifts across mid-Atlantic
By Jonathan D. Rockoff
Section: TELEGRAPH Page: 1A
© 2002 The Baltimore Sun
A haze smelling like burning wood blanketed much of Maryland yesterday as
summer winds carrying smoke from forest fires raging in Canada moved over the
The ashen shroud from central Quebec is expected to linger over Maryland
through today, when, the National Weather Service predicts, winds will shift
and push the smoke over the Atlantic Ocean.
The unusual phenomenon does not pose serious health problems, though people
with asthma and other respiratory ailments were advised to be cautious and
limit time outdoors.
"I don't think there is anything intrinsically dangerous about forest-fire
smoke, but if you have respiratory problems, you don't want to exert
yourself," said Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, Baltimore's health commissioner.
Beilenson said that asthmatics should carry inhalers when outside and
runners should stop jogging if they experience any problems. "People ought to
be a little more cautious," Beilenson said, though he added that the smoke
isn't as dangerous as ozone.
The weather service said conditions did not warrant issuing an air quality
advisory. Area hospitals contacted yesterday said they have not seen an
increase in patients because of the weather.
The haze put views into a soft focus and reduced visibility at area
airports. Visibility, the weather service said, dropped to two miles at Martin
State Airport in Middle River and to three miles at Baltimore-Washington
But BWI spokeswoman April Thompson said the haze did not cause delays or
otherwise affect flights. "It's certainly something aircraft can handle, even
if visibility gets worse," she said.
Boaters on the Chesapeake Bay called the Coast Guard to ask what was
happening, as visibility dropped to a mile. "It's pretty much all over the
radio," said Petty Officer Brian Dietz in Baltimore. He said he did not know
of any accidents caused by weather conditions.
Visitors at Baltimore's Inner Harbor said they couldn't help but notice the
haze and smoky smell yesterday afternoon.
"It makes it seem like 8:30 at night," said Irma Fennessey, 65, of Essex,
who added that the haze had detracted from her walk around the sights with her
sister. Off in the distance, the National Aquarium was blurred. Looking
upward, Fennessey asked, "Where is that sun?"
The pall has been creeping down the Atlantic coast at 12,000 feet above sea
level for several days. Winds flowing from Canada brought the smoke first over
New England and then to the mid-Atlantic states. It reached as far south as
eastern Virginia and North Carolina, said Jackie Hale, a weather service
spokeswoman in Sterling, Va.
It blew into much of Maryland yesterday morning. Satellite images from the
afternoon showed that the thickest swath of smoke had at that time blanketed
most of the state.
Dave Jones, a meteorologist who is president and chief executive officer of
Storm Center Communications, an Ellicott City company that has a government
grant to use satellite imagery to explain weather, said a high-pressure system
hovering over the region was pushing the smoke and its odor down to the ground
so people could sense it.
"We haven't seen anything like this in a long time," Jones said. "It's more
common in the Midwest because our winds are usually from the west to the east,
and when they have forest fires in the Rocky Mountains, people can see it in
Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa."
Harford County police reported a deluge of calls from concerned and curious
residents, who had not seen advisories explaining the haze posted on the Web
and on cable television's Weather Channel.
People venturing outdoors thought it would rain, looked for a nearby fire
or worried about the health consequences.
"I wondered if we should be out walking in it," said Pearl Imber, 67, from
Pikesville, who decided to visit Fort McHenry and stroll around the Inner
Harbor with her husband, only to find the views obstructed.
The plume was expected to give sunset and sunrise a reddish hue, Hale said.
The spell should pass later today when a low-pressure system over Maine gives
way and shifting winds blow the smoke eastward, instead of south.
At least 50 forest fires about 500 miles north of Montreal are responsible
for the overcast conditions, the weather service said. The fires, sparked by
thunderstorms Tuesday and still burning, have consumed 375 square miles of
The Associated Press and Sun staff writer Jason Song contributed to this