Western wildfire smoke makes for great Mid-South sunsets - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Western wildfire smoke makes for great Mid-South sunsets

(WMC) -

You may have noticed what looks like a thick haze in the air the last few days. It’s actually smoke from the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest that has been pick up by the jet stream or upper level winds and blown across much of the U.S. all the way to the east coast.

The image above was taken by NOAA-NASA's Suomi NPP satellite on September 4, 2017. The red dots are the individual fires. It clearly shows the direct path of the smoke in light gray. If the smoke stays in the jet stream and doesn't descend, the health risks are minimal, however the smoke can be pulled down by the jet stream, causing unhealthy air quality.

One of the most visible impacts here in the Mid-South have been the sunsets. The first two photos above were taken by Kelsey Jacobson at sunset on September 5 in Midtown Memphis. The third photo was taken by Norma Ladd on her way back to Memphis from Pickwick Lake.

You will notice that the sun has a nice orange or pink glow in each photo. That happens because smoke particles from the fires allow sunlight's longer wavelength colors like red and orange to get through while blocking the shorter wavelengths of yellow, blue, and green. When the sun is near the horizon, sunlight has to travel through more of Earth's atmosphere. The additional atmosphere filters out the shorter wavelengths and allows the longer wavelengths to get through, providing reds and oranges during those times. If you snap a good one the next few nights, share it with me on Facebook or Twitter.

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