With 25 major wildfires raging and 2.3 million acres already scorched, the Golden State has turned orange.
On Wednesday, viral photos and videos from San Francisco illustrated an apocalyptic scene—a dark orange sky shrouding the city in a smoky haze and blotting out the sun. The City by the Bay looked like the City on Mars.
With several different wildfires burning in northern California, multiple factors contributed to the fire-colored sky––as explained by a local air quality agency on Twitter.
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.
— Bay Area Air Quality (@AirDistrict) September 9, 2020
According to the Verge, the smoke was so thick over San Francisco that weather models were unable to forecast accurate temperatures. While the National Weather Service had forecast some areas of San Francisco would reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit, actual temperatures were as much as 20 degrees lower, due to smoke blocking out sunlight.
While the jaw-dropping visuals of San Francisco’s blood orange sky are mesmerizing, they also offer a stark reminder about the dangers of climate change and the worsening wildfire disasters afflicting the western United States. In fact, three of the four largest fires in California history––August Complex, SCU Lightning Complex, LNU Lightning Complex––began burning last month and none have reached full containment. To make matters worse, California’s fire season is expected to last for another three to four months.
It’s going to be a long, smoky autumn in the west.