Why wildfire smoke has caused the sun to appear red at sunset

Weather

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Smoke from wildfires in the Pacific Northwest and central Canada has caused hazy skies across north-central West Virginia over the past few weeks. Due to a recent uptick in the smoke in the sky above our region, the sun appeared red in the sky Sunday and Monday evenings.

This is caused by the physics of visible light. The dense smoke in the atmosphere amplifies our normal red/orange sky at sunset due to the wavelength of different colors on the visible light spectrum.

Red light has the longest wavelength, while blue light has a shorter wavelength.

During a normal day when the sun is directly above us, there isn’t a lot of atmosphere for visible light particles to pass through. This allows for the much shorter blue light wavelength to turn our sky blue.

During the morning and evening when the sun is low on the horizon, the shorter wavelength of blue light is absorbed by air particles, while the longer wavelengths of red and orange pass through and make the sky appear red.

The wildfire smoke has added a *lot* more particles in the air, which amplifies this process, thus causing the sun and sky to appear a dark, red-orange color.

More smoke is expected to be in place over skies across north-central West Virginia on Tuesday. Be sure to send any photos of the sunrise or sunset to weather@wboy.com,

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