New Yorkers woke up Tuesday to a hazy sky with the sun tinted a devilish red-orange color after wildfires out West sent a dense layer of smoke billowing 3,000 miles all the way to the city. State officials issued an air-quality alert for the city and much of upstate New York on account of the wildfire smoke. Breathing in wildfire smoke can trigger respiratory problems and other health woes. The haze lingered on Wednesday, but a cold front forecasted to sweep across the Northeast in the afternoon should help clear it out, according to the National Weather Service. Consequently, air quality is expected to improve.
More than 80 wildfires are currently scorching across 13 western states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. But as the smoke builds, it fills the sky and gets whisked along with other weather systems across the entire country. “Due to the fact that smoke particles are small and light, they can be transported hundreds if not a few thousand miles away from their source,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Alex DaSilva.
The sun’s red tinge is a result of dense smoke particles in the upper reaches of the atmosphere interacting with sunlight, scattering incoming light into the long wavelengths of red light. Those longer wavelengths ultimately give the sky a reddish-orange tint.
The largest blaze currently burning is the Bootleg Fire in Oregon, which began on July 6 and has burned an area half the size of Rhode Island, CNN reports. Rising temperatures have allowed more fires to ignite, making destructive fires like the Bootleg increasingly common.