YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – There is no doubt that this spring has been abnormal across northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania. Monday was the 16th straight day in Youngstown with no precipitation. If the streak reaches 20 days, then it will be in the top 10 for the driest time periods of all time at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Airport.

Obviously, the dry weather has produced multiple opportunities to view the sunrise, sunset and moon across the Valley. However, even that has been unique and different.

The Valley is not the only place where abnormally dry conditions have had an effect. The dry conditions have resulted in numerous wildfires in eastern Canada. Due to a northerly wind, the wildfire smoke has drifted over our area multiple times in the past couple of weeks.

The smoke has been the cause of multiple beautiful sunrises/sunsets, and it has even changed the color of the moon. The “Strawberry Moon,” which occurred this past Saturday, is not named for its color, but it actually did have a reddish color because of the smoke!

How can the smoke change the color of the sun and the moon, you might ask? Well, the reason for this is the same reason that the sky is blue. When sunlight enters our atmosphere, some of the light is scattered by the gases the atmosphere comprises.

Visible light comprises six different colors: red, orange, green, blue, indigo and violet. The colors with smaller wavelengths are violet, indigo and blue, while red, orange and green have longer wavelengths.

During the daytime, the sun is directly overhead, and it has a short path from the top of the atmosphere to the surface. Therefore, only the colors indigo and violet are scattered away by the atmosphere, and blue is the color of light leftover, which makes the sky blue.

Later in the day (or early in the morning), the sun is closer to the horizon and the light has to travel a longer distance to reach our eyes. Therefore, the colors green, blue, indigo, and violet are scattered away, and the only colors left are reddish/orange. This same effect also occurs with the moon when it is close to the horizon.

sunset at Mill Creek

Clouds and smoke can enhance this phenomenon to produce reddish/orange colors even when the sun/moon is not as close to the horizon. This is because the smoke particles and cloud droplets also scattered the light in the same way as the atmosphere.

This week should be a good time to go out to take sunrise/sunset photos.