Why Is the Sun Red? [2020]

why is the sun red

Jessica McBride Milwaukee The red sun in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, which is near Milwaukee.

People all over the country are reporting that the sun is an unusual red shade. What gives? Why is the sun a bright red orb in many communities? The answer: The smoke from wildfires out west.

The sun certainly looked red in Wisconsin, where this author lives. Check it out above.

IndyStar reported that the sun was a red hue in Indiana too. According to the newspaper, it’s “the result of smoke from devastating West Coast wildfires spreading across the country at high altitudes.”

The newspaper spoke to a National Weather Service metereologist, who explained that jet streams move across the U.S., and they are carrying smoke throughout the country “The very hazy sun like we had yesterday and we have today, that’s also because of all the particulates in the air because of the smoke,” Mike Ryan told IndyStar on September 15. “It’s making the sunrises and sunsets quite vivid and very colorful.”

Readers sent us some pictures of the red sun.

Pittsfield, Massachusetts:

red sun

Darryl Rod to Jessica McBride.Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Sussex, Wisconsin:

red sun

Chris Schaefgen to Jessica McBrideSussex, Wisconsin.

North Lake, Wisconsin:

red sun

Anna Burgett to Jessica McBride MilwaukeeNorth Lake, Wisconsin.

Here’s what you need to know:


The Wildfires Are Sending Smoke Into the Air That Is Causing the Reddish Hue Due to ‘Scattering’

red sun

Shannon Bertsch to Jessica McBride MilwaukeeWaukesha, Wisconsin.

Fox10 Phoenix reported that the phenomenon is also being witnessed in Arizona. “The red hues are due to wildfire smoke blowing into the state, which has caused hazy skies and a red tint to the moon and sun,” the television station reported.

According to Fox10, the phenomenon is caused by “scattering” that “sends light out in different directions” when “sunlight hits smoke particles in the atmosphere.”

“Blue and green wavelengths of visible light are scattered by the smoke particles, while more of the red gets through,” Ken Drozd, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tucson, told that television station.

Daphne Thompson, a metereologist from Oklahoma, echoed that point to CPR.org.

“The thing with wildfires is that the smoke puts a lot of extra particles up in the atmosphere. So now we’re getting the red scattering over even more of those particles, and you can get some amazing red sunsets during wildfires,” Thompson said to the outlet.

UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain wrote on Twitter that the smoke from the fire was partly blocking the sun.

“Extremely dense & tall smoke plumes from numerous large wildfires, some of which have been generating nocturnal pyrocumulunimbus clouds (‘fire thunderstorms’), are almost completely blocking out the sun across some portions of Northern California this morning,” he wrote.


The Skies Were Red & Orange in Some States Too

Why is the sky orange today?Hear the latest from Air District meteorologist Jarrett Claiborne!2020-09-11T20:06:59Z

In many areas of the western United States, people were reporting red and orange skies, not just a red sun.

The Bay Area Air District reported that the red/orange skies were the “result of wildfire smoke in the air. Strong winds over the past few days transported ash from fires in northern California and the Sierra Nevada into the region. These smoke particles scatter blue light & only allow yellow-orange-red light to reach the surface, causing skies to look orange. If smoke becomes too thick in a certain area, most of the light will be scattered & absorbed before reaching the surface, which may cause dark skies.”

red skies

Brian Schafer to Jessica McBrideNear Molalla Oregon.

It’s happened before. In 2019, a Pennsylvania television station reported that the sun looked red because of Canadian wildfires.

In early August, the sun was also red-looking in Arizona, a phenomenon also attributed to smoke from a wildfire, in that case the Valley the Apple Fire in southern California, according to ABC15.

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