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How smoky skies make our sunsets gorgeous

You may have noticed a haze over our skies yesterday. That haze more than likely came from a mix of Saharan dust from our east and smoke from the fires out west. Currently, there are numerous wildfires occurring out west, and our maps even show a few fires burning in southern Missouri.

Thanks to the jet stream, or the upper level winds, smoke from the fires to our west has been moved all the way into the interior of the country. Even today, the jet stream is strongest just to our north which coincides with where most of that smoke has been moved. 

If you happened to catch a glimpse of last night’s sunset, you may have noticed that it was a particularly fiery one. This was caused by a difference of particles in the air. 

Did you know that the sky isn’t actually blue? Before you start writing emails to the newsroom or your 6th grade science teacher, let us explain. We see the color blue when we look at the sky because the sunshine reflects off of air molecules and scatters the light. Blue is scattered at a shorter wavelength which allows it to scatter more effectively, which is why we see the sky as blue when looking away from the sun. 

In last night’s case, there weren’t just typical air molecules over us. We also were tracking dust and smoke particles in the mid-Missouri atmosphere that allowed the light to scatter differently. These particles work to dim the sky color and can lead to fiery sunsets like the one we saw last night.

Now those smoke and dust particles will be with us for a little while longer, but as rain makes its way into mid-Missouri, it’ll be harder for you to catch a glimpse of those fiery sunsets.

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Maddie Est

Maddie Est appears on ABC 17’s weekend evening broadcasts. She grew up in St. Louis, and her passion for weather originated from a young age thanks to all the different weather that St. Louis receives. She is currently studying Atmospheric Science at the University of Missouri.


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