Waking up, stepping outside, and seeing a blood-red sun isn’t exactly a cheerful start to the day. But it’s one even those well out of Hurricane Ophelia’s path are observing today as they look up. So how does a storm hundreds of miles away turn the sun red? Britons have been speculating on what the heck’s going on, posting images of a red sun to Instagram:
And they’re not alone. Californians have also seen a red sunrise:
So what’s happening? This is what happens when we turn the sky into a giant dumpster, either by accident or design.
- Let’s start with the sky. Think of the sky as a giant filter. When light hits it directly, the gases and particles in the atmosphere scatter more blue light than red. This is why your camera, if you set it to an “indoor” white balance, takes bluish looking pictures when you’re outdoors. However, if you fire sunlight at more of an angle, like, say, at sunset, the blue spectrum is filtered out and you see more of the red spectrum.
- But the atmosphere can change. Wildfires, like California’s or the ones raging through Spain and Portugal, fed by Ophelia, dump millions of particles into the atmosphere. Hurricanes and storms often do this with other particulate forms of matter, like sand, and Ophelia may have brought sand from the Sahara up as well.
- Thus, the particles scatter the light differently, creating a red sun. It’s not a sign of anything, really, beyond the fact there’s more crap in the air. That said, if you’re close to wildfires or have a reaction to particulate matter, you may want to contact your doctor or a medical professional and discuss your situation.
Really, though, for most of us, it’s just a unique, if a bit unnerving sight. So, don’t let it affect your day. Unless your life is already a bad horror movie, not much will change beyond the color of daylight.