Climate Change's Wildfire Sunsets

by Daniel Brouse
February 11, 2024

What caused the beautiful sunsets in the United States during the forest fires in Canada?

The beautiful sunsets observed in the United States during forest fires in Canada can be attributed to the scattering of sunlight by smoke particles in the atmosphere. When large wildfires occur, they release significant amounts of smoke, ash, and particulate matter into the air. This smoke can be carried by the wind over long distances and may reach neighboring regions or even other countries.

Here's how the process works:

  1. Smoke Composition:

    • Wildfire smoke contains tiny particles, including ash, soot, and aerosols. These particles can scatter sunlight in different directions, leading to changes in the appearance of the sky and the sun.
  2. Scattering of Sunlight:

    • The smoke particles act as a kind of natural filter for sunlight. As sunlight passes through the smoke-filled atmosphere, shorter-wavelength blue and violet light are scattered more effectively than longer-wavelength red and orange light.
  3. Reddish and Orange Hues:

    • The scattering of shorter-wavelength light results in the dominant presence of longer-wavelength light during sunrise and sunset. This leads to the vivid red, orange, and pink hues observed in the sky during these times, which are often referred to as "fire colors."
  4. Enhanced Sunsets:

    • The presence of wildfire smoke in the upper atmosphere can enhance the scattering effect, creating particularly stunning and vibrant sunsets. The smoke particles disperse and reflect sunlight, producing a diffuse and colorful display.
  5. Geographical Impact:

    • When wildfires occur in Canada, the smoke can be transported by atmospheric winds into the United States. As a result, areas in the U.S. that are downwind of the wildfires may experience the atmospheric effects of the smoke, leading to visually striking sunsets.

While the beautiful sunsets during forest fires create captivating visuals, it's essential to recognize the environmental and health impacts associated with wildfires. Wildfires can cause significant damage to ecosystems, contribute to air pollution, and pose risks to human health. The mesmerizing sunsets are a visible reminder of the interconnectedness of atmospheric processes and the far-reaching effects of natural events like wildfires.

How is All Real Estate at Risk From Climate Change? Brouse and Mukherjee (2024)
Wildfires / Brouse and Mukherjee (2023)
The Long-term Breathing Experiment / Brouse (2023)
Health Impacts of Air Pollution / Brouse (2023)
Climate Change: Rate of Acceleration / Brouse and Mukherjee (2023)
Toppled Tipping Points: The Domino Effect / Brouse and Mukherjee (2023)
Tree Extinction Due to Human Induced Environmental Stress / Mukherjee and Brouse (2005)
Soil Degradation and Desertification / Brouse (2024)
Create a Climate-Resilient Environment in and Around Your Home / Brouse (2024)

The Human Induced Climate Change Experiment

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