Why is the sun red? Experts explain how smoke is creating the phenomenon

·2 min read

INDIANAPOLIS — If you've noticed the sun looking a shade redder than usual this weekend, your eyes were not deceiving you.

Residents in Indiana, California, Washington, Oregon and even Hawaii have noticed the sun appearing orange-red, and experts say the color is due to smoke particles high in the sky that have blown over from the wildfires in the western United States.

“We’ve been having some smoke aloft, and it has made it look pretty hazy out there," Kacie Hoover, a National Weather Service meteorologist said. "Even if there aren’t a whole lot of actual clouds, it still seems cloudy because the smoke is filtering out that sunlight."

Those smoke particles scatter the light more, lending to the appearance of the longer wavelengths of light, which appear red.

Where is the smoke coming from?: Thick smoke from Western wildfires is traveling thousands of miles, clouding NYC skies

The smoke over portions of the eastern U.S. is the result of wildfires that have ravaged hundreds of miles of land. In California, the flames have forced many to flee their homes and have left thousands of firefighters scrambling to battle the blazes.

And though the fires have raged for months now, Hoover said some may just now be noticing the change in the sky due to the current weather. The presence of smoke in the sky largely depends on airflow. The way the air high in the atmosphere was moving this past weekend, "the smoke just kind of sat there.”

In Central Indiana, high pressure system has been over the area during the past few days, creating clear conditions that made the phenomenon more obvious.

The impact of that smoke goes beyond visual effects.

Is the sun really red?: Why you might be seeing red when you look at the sun

Wildfires emit volumes of microscopic smoke particles that researchers say can be harmful if breathed in. Portions of the Northwest and upper Midwest have issued air quality alerts in recent weeks.

But experts say the smoke is likely not enough to create a health hazard. The smoke particles are high in the sky, they say, and the smoke this past weekend was not terribly thick.

“Here," Hoover said, "it’s just been very aloft and not much is getting down to the surface.”

Follow Lawrence Andrea on Twitter: @lawrencegandrea

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Why is the sun red? Expert explains the color change

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting