If you caught the sunset Wednesday evening, you most likely noticed that the sun was a deep orange to almost red color.

This change in the sun’s color is due to smoke that is showing up high in the sky from western wildfires. This smoke has drifted east in the upper air flow and is creating a different look to the sun, and the sky, during sunset. It has also crated a milky haze in the sky through the afternoon.

A snapshot of the wildfire smoke in the sky on Sept. 15, 2022.

Is the smoke dangerous to us here in Ohio and Pennsylvania?

The wildfire smoke is very high in the sky and should not impact our region much at all. This smoke is well above the layer of air that we breath every day, and it will drift overhead thousands of feet above the ground.

You can see on the two images below that there is not smoke showing up at 1,000 feet above ground level, but it is showing up around 6,000 feet above ground level. The smoke is high off the ground and will not impact our health here in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

This is an image from NOAA at rapidrefresh.noaa.gov showing smoke around 1,000 feet above ground level.
This is an image from NOAA at rapidrefresh.noaa.gov showing smoke around 6,000 feet above ground level.

Will the smoke impact our daily life?

The main impact that we will experience is a milky sky. The other impact would be an orange or red sunset that looks a little different than normal.

The smoke will also make the sun look red as it approaches the horizon.

Why does the Sun turn red in a smoky sky?

The smoke will filter/fade out the short wavelengths of light that we see on the horizon. The filtering of the shorter wavelengths leaves the longer wavelengths for our eyes to see. Longer wavelengths are the red and orange colors of the spectrum.

Landscape with red sun setting behind dark clouds and silhouette of hills and trees
Adobe Stock

This is why the sunset typically will have more of a orange/red tint to it with smoke in the sky.

The smoke will also lower the brightness of the sun to our eyes as the smoke is scattering the light. It will look dimmer as the red glow shows up late in the evening, or early in the morning.