First Alert Weather In-Depth: It’s nice to see the colors, but not to breathe the air

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Any conversation about the atmosphere has to include what is happening as a result of the smoke being produced by the Canadian wildfires. One question that has been asked is how and where the smoke particles are being measured in the Rochester area. After all, there has to be some kind of instrumentation. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is measuring the air right along Route 490. The DEC is measuring everything from CO2 (carbon dioxide) to nitrous oxide. But in this case, we are most interested in what is called “particulate matter”. Too much of that material is a health concern. Specifically, it is the amount of particles that are in the air around Rochester from the smoky wildfires.

On a personal level, I can say it is much more pleasant to be breathing the air inside a building, rather outside. But what about those red sunsets? Some have said that red sky has looked ominous at times. So what is going on why does the sun appear red?

This is the science behind the color. The visible light is continuously coming in from the sun and even though we usually cannot see it, this light has all levels of the color spectrum. Think of it like the colors of the rainbow or maybe using a glass prism. That prism can split the visible light into the spectrum of those colors. The smoke is actually blocking and scattering portions of that light and as a result, we are only seeing the red portions of the spectrum.

So, today we can say it is nice to see the red color, but obviously it is not nice to breathe the smoky atmosphere.