Colorful sunset alert for NJ: Due to wildfire smoke and dry air
There is something special, magical, and romantic about a New Jersey sunset. (A sunrise too.) Especially in the summertime. Especially when the reds, oranges, and yellows are especially vivid.
Well here you go, New Jersey. Get those cameras and smartphones ready, as signs point toward some spectacular sunrises and sunsets coming up over the next day or two (at least).
You may remember from high school science class that colorful sunrises and sunrises are caused by atmospheric refraction. When the sun is low in the sky, close to the horizon, the light bends as it travels through the atmosphere. That results in a shift toward the lower wavelength end of the visible light spectrum — turning the sky red, orange, and yellow instead of blue.
Sometimes, additional factors lead to an even more breathtaking display.
The reason why I think the sky will turn pretty colors stems from wildfires about 2,500 miles away.
The western U.S. has been plagued by heat waves, drought, and wildfires all summer. In particular, a cluster of fires around the Lake Tahoe area in California and Nevada has shot smoke way up into the atmosphere.
The jet stream — a river of fast-moving air about 5+ miles over our heads — helped to transport that dirty air across the country. And, according to forecast model guidance, the smoke plume has now reached the great Garden State.
Those smoke particles will further scatter and bend the sun's light, causing more widespread and more vivid colors along the horizon at sunrise and sunset.
You will not smell the smoke. There are no air quality concerns. And I don't think the smoke is thick enough to obscure the sky with haze.
You may remember that a milky sky and poor quality were big issues in the summer of 2021. In 2020, dust from the Sahara Desert had a similar effect.
Another reason for a potentially vibrant sunset is a difference in air densities, caused by the arrival/departure of dry/humid air. That's exactly what's happening in NJ's weather world on Thursday. A big drop in dew points and humidity makes me even more optimistic that we'll get a picturesque fiery sky.
The weather will certainly cooperate for your sunset and sunrise viewing pleasure. Both Thursday and Friday will feature mainly clear skies and comfortable temperatures. This weekend will be partly sunny and warmer.
Sunset these days occurs around 7:07 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Expect the last glimmers of light along the horizon by 8:40 p.m.
Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Follow Dan on Facebook or Twitter for your latest weather forecast updates.