Smoke from the Western wildfires has dramatically altered DC sunrises and sunsets
The usually bright and vibrant colors of the sun at sunrise and sunset in recent days have been replaced by dark and soft reddish hues in the sky. The guilty? Western wildfire smoke in the atmosphere that filtered sunlight reaching the ground.
Due to the smoky haze, the sunrise and sunset looked more like a moonrise and moonset – with lower contrast and more detail in the sun. Some pictures show the sunspots that triggered the recent aurora borealis.
You may have noticed that the smoke was also less apparent in the middle of the day. The sky was slightly less blue and had a milky white appearance for much of the day. But at sunrise and sunset, the sun dimmed considerably and seemed to become a soft glow in the sky near the horizon.
The enhanced reds of a smoky sunset are due to the short wavelengths of blue light captured by the haze. Red or orange wavelengths are longer and able to pass through and be seen.
Photographing a sun clouded by smoke in the sky is much easier than photographing an extremely bright sun. Indeed, the sun and the foreground can be correctly exposed in a photo with a subdued sun. It is similar to the lower contrast which allows for pleasant “blue hour” images around dusk and dawn.
While the smoke from the wildfires in our skies has already diminished considerably compared to the past few days, thanks to a weak cold front moving offshore, we may continue to see some until a stronger surge of Cooler air comes from the north in the middle of the week.
Fortunately, an early season storm will bring rain to the west coast. Although it hasn’t completely extinguished the ongoing fires, greater humidity in the area has aided firefighting efforts. The amount of smoke entering the atmosphere is currently much lower, which can help keep our skies cleaner.
Many Capital Weather Gang readers and photographers in the area also captured the smoky skies. Some of the best captures we’ve seen are included below.
Ian Livingston contributed to this report.