The scenes have almost felt like they're out of Hollywood imagination -- brilliant red sunrises and sunsets the last couple of days around Western Washington.
Why so red? It's a byproduct of the massive wildfires that recently burned a large area in Siberia.
The atmospheric winds are aligned this week to carry the smoke across the Pacific Ocean and into the Pacific Northwest.
First up, to get an idea of just how much smoke is in the atmosphere, look at this visible satellite image taken on April 14 of the southeastern Siberia area where the wildfires got out of control:
Credit: NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Adam Voiland.
Where did the smoke go? This graphic is a model trajectory tracing back the air pattern across the Pacific Ocean over the past week. Note the air from the wildfires makes somewhat of a bee line toward Seattle (with a brief stop for a loop-de-loop in the central Pacific:)
Amazingly the smoke is still quite intense when it gets here -- check out this high-resolution satellite image from Saturday and note the haze over Washington and British Columbia:
Note it's getting carried back offshore a bit then pushed back east into Southern Oregon:
Photo courtesy NASA/MODIS satellite
Why does it make the skies red? The smoke particles in the atmosphere help filter out the shorter wavelength colors of sunlight -- the greens, blues, yellows and purples, while the longer wavelength reds and oranges have a better chance of getting through the air unfiltered. You notice it at sunrise and sunset because when the sun is lower on the horizon, its light has more of Earth's atmosphere to travel through to get to your eye, so the filtering process is more complete.
The intense effect on our sunsets despite the wildfires being 3,500-4,000 miles away gives you some idea how bad the fires were in Siberia, where 15 people have died and hundreds are injured. In addition, over 1,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged.
The fires were started in Khakassia, a region in southeastern Siberia, by farmers burning the grass in their fields, but spread quickly because of strong winds. By early morning the fires in all 38 villages in the area had been put out with the help of aircraft and 6,000 firefighters, Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said, adding that rescue workers will remain in the area to clear the debris.
Locally that means air quality should improve in the days ahead and the sunsets should return to more traditional shades of color.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.