Iowans who happened to be up for sunrise today got a rare treat. Smoke from wildfires in Alberta, Canada, is filtering high over Iowa and it’s making the sun appear as a golden-reddish-orange ball.
Meteorologist Brooke Hagenhoff, at the National Weather Service, says the phenomenon should be visible at sunset tonight, too, and for that matter, the sun and sky may look unusual all day, perhaps longer.
“It’s really making kind of that reddish look to the sky. It’s gonna look pretty hazy most of the day,” Hagenhoff says. “Right now, it looks like that hazy sky’s going to hang on at least through tomorrow. We do have a cold front coming through on Thursday with some thunderstorms that may help to push some of it out as we get into the end of the week.”
Iowans who have certain health issues and difficulty breathing should not feel any ill affects from the smoke, as it’s far up in the atmosphere, perhaps 20,000 feet up. Plus, she says, it doesn’t even smell like smoke outside. “In the afternoon, sometimes this time of year, whenever it’s warm, you can get some deeper mixing as the ground kind of warms up. That could start to pull some of it down, but again, just how much is kind of an unknown,” Hagenhoff says. “So just something to use caution. Of course, there are air quality products out there so anyone with concerns would want to check to see what those levels may be.”
There are at least 90 wildfires now burning in Canada with more than 20 of them out of control. More than 20,000 Canadians have been evacuated from their homes because of the fires, and cities like Calgary are under alerts due to poor air quality. Hagenhoff doesn’t anticipate anything similar here and the smoke is so high aloft, it doesn’t even appear on radar over Iowa. The odd-looking sky could persist, though.
“Because it’s such a small-scale thing with the fires in Canada, and how that’s going to interact with our systems, and how it gets drug down,” she says, “it’s a little tough to kind of figure out exactly where we’ll be with any kind of length into the future past a couple days.” The federal government runs a website called simply, AirNow, and it’s focused on fires and smoke.
The site includes a color-coded map through which you can zoom in on individual Iowa counties to check on air quality.