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Western wildfires generate smoke plumes across Michigan

Posted at 9:24 AM, Jul 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-18 09:26:04-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — If you've noticed a haziness in the atmosphere, you are correct! Wildfires that are burning in parts of the Western United States and Canada have generated smoke plumes here in Michigan. Since we are downstream from those wildfires, the smoke naturally shifts over our region. The small particles are mainly two to four kilometers above the surface of Michigan, but the smoke can shift closer to the surface due to mixing in the atmosphere.

The heaviest smoke is seen north, represented by the dark oranges. Northern Michigan currently has higher indications of smoke plumes compared to West Michigan, according to the NOAA Office of Satellite and Product Operations. West Michigan is under the green region, while most of Northern Michigan is under brown.

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The smoke in the atmosphere generates stunning views, including more of a "red" view to our sunsets. You might be wondering, why does the sun look so red? Well, it's all due to the scattering of light. The smoke particles are much larger than the normal air particles, which scatters light differently. The blue and purple wavelengths are much shorter, while the red and orange wavelengths are much larger. The additional smoke particles scatter the short wavelengths, and heighten the longer red and orange wavelengths.

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The National Weather Service in Gaylord, Michigan took pictures of the sunset from their webcam. They jokingly tweeted that this wasn't a picture from Mars, but a picture from Northern Michigan.

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If you take any photos of the sunset this evening or next, send them in to FOX 17.