How wildfire smoke creates vibrant sunsets in the Miami Valley

Wildfires in the western United States will bring smoke into the Miami Valley skies, but that smoke will also bring some vivid colors in the skies around sunset.

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Smoke from those fires reaches high into the sky and is carried eastward by jet stream winds aloft. When there is enough smoke, the change in the sky can be quite noticeable.

During the afternoon hours, the smoke makes the sky appear greyer than we would normally expect. Around sunrise and sunset is when the more vivid reds and oranges may be present and enhanced by the smoke.

During the mornings and evenings, sunlight has to travel further through the atmosphere to reach our eyes. This means sunlight has to encounter additional particles in the atmosphere which scatter out certain wavelengths of light.

The result is the oranges and reds we see around sunrise and sunset. Smoke in the atmosphere enhances this effect.

The smoke will only be a visual phenomena here in the Miami Valley. Due to how high in the atmosphere the smoke is, we won’t be able to smell it. More importantly, it will not have any effect on our air quality.