COLUMBUS, Ohio — Have you noticed any vibrant sunrises or sunsets the past couple of days? How about any hazy or milky skies during the day? It’s not because of the heat but from particles way up in the upper parts of the atmosphere, specifically wildfire smoke.
Another good guess would have been from the fireworks over the weekend but it’s actually smoke from over 1,000 miles away—in Canada. Fires in the Province of Manitoba have been pushed southeast due to the recent jet stream over much of the Ohio Valley region.
The reason we see these “vivid” or “hazy” skies the same reason why we can see a rainbow—refraction.
Refraction is the bending of light as it passes from one transparent substance into another. When there is smoke or dust particles in the air the particles scattered light in a way that enhances the red and orange colors, especially during the sun angles during sunrise and sunset. The colors of red and orange have longer wavelengths of light and don’t interact with the particles in the air, which allows them to pass through for our viewing.
If you’re wondering if this smoke will impact our air quality, it won’t have much of an impact. Our air quality is currently at moderate levels mainly due to the high heat and humidity across Central Ohio.
These particles do have an impact on the UV index—but there’s not enough dust or smoke in the air to really lower the UV index here in Ohio. These small particles in a large quantity can absorb and reduce the UV rays as they pierce the sky and head towards the surface.
The bulk of the smoke has been moving out of the region but as wildfire season continues, don’t be surprised if we happen to see more of these hazy skies through the year. Also, if you have any pictures of these vivid colors during our sunrise or sunset please send them to us on our 10TV social media pages.