Breakdown: Why smoke can linger after fireworks

Breakdown: Why smoke can linger after fireworks

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -It’s that time where fireworks may be heard from near and far. July 4th is the most popular holiday where millions may shoot off a round of fireworks, but New Year’s Eve and Day are not too far behind.

Have you ever wondered why the smoke can linger after a fireworks display? Some have said that it is due to the fireworks being cheap but that isn’t the case. The reason that the smoke can linger is actually due to a weather phenomenon called an inversion. An inversion happens when a pocket of warmer air is over top of a pocket of cooler air. Normally air rises but the air will get trapped near the ground.

Inversions mostly occur on calm nights as the air close to the ground cools. When the wind is calm, the stagnant air can cause pollution to gather and sit in the lowest part of the atmosphere within just a few hundred feet of the ground. Weather inversion can cause pollutants to get trapped near the ground and can cause smog, inversions can also trap smoke from fireworks near the ground, which can cause visibility issues.

Sometimes during fireworks displays, winds are normally calm under an inversion, which allows the smoke to build up near the surface without a way to move away from the launching site.

In Washington, D.C., during the annual fireworks display at the National Mall in 2019. A wall of smoke slowly developed throughout the show and the smoke filled air had nowhere to go. By the end of the show, the crowd saw a cloudy show that was illuminated by flashes of color, versus the vibrant color display that fireworks usually present. The smoked filled air was so bad that many left. The smoke stayed in the air for several hours following the show.

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