A Smoky and Hazy Summer Day

Occasionally, smoke from a wildfire can get trapped in the atmosphere and have an effect on the weather. This time around, the fires are in parts of Manitoba and Ontario, Canada and are being pulled around a high pressure system over the Great Lakes.


The main plume of smoke has been over parts of Wisconsin and Michigan but skies may appear hazy at times in eastern Iowa. Below is a satellite shot from this morning.

When smoke is in the air, colors will seem a little more dull during the day, especially on the horizon, with blues appearing more white or milky.

Sunsets on the other hand may appear more vivid or bright with the oranges and reds popping.

Normally during sunset or sunrise, the light from the sun has to travel through more of the atmosphere than during the day to meet your eye. The dust, aerosols, and air itself scatter away much of the shorter wavelength colors such as blue, indigo, and violet but allow the bigger wavelength colors of red, orange, and yellow to pass. With added smoke in the air, more scattering occurs and therefore you will see more of a sunset or sunrise “on fire”.

Of course, the air can impact more than just optics and can be a real hazard on your health if it is concentrated enough towards the ground. Luckily, most of the smoke is trapped in the upper atmosphere this time around so our air quality has dropped just one notch from good to moderate which is still OK for a vast majority of the population. Only people that are unusually sensitive to air pollution would experience issues.

Yellow is moderate, orange is unhealthy for sensitive groups
Brandon Libby

Brandon Libby

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