Bay Area’s Orange Skies Explained

Photo Credit: Eric Anderson via Unsplash

Added to the list of strange things to occur in 2020: orange skies. The entire Bay Area today is seeing bright orange and red skies instead of the typical fog and later sunny afternoon.

Weather forecaster ABC7, Spencer Christian, joined KGO Wednesday to explain why the skies have changed colors.

“The basic, simple explanation is that the smoke particles in the air scatter blue light. As you know particulate matter in the atmosphere determines how we see colors. I mean, you know, water droplets can make you see rainbows. So this particulate matter that’s up in the upper atmosphere with the smoke scatters blue light rays. So all we’re seeing is yellow and orange type hues and that’s why the sky looks the way it looks,” said Christian.

Lunchtime in the city. #SanFrancisco #CaliforniaFires @KGO810

Although the color is shocking, the air quality is not as bad as some may assume.

“It sounds strange, but the air quality here is considered moderate right now because the marine layer down here at the surface has given us enough wind flow and enough cool marine air that it’s kept our air quality…moderate. But, we’ve got that heavy smoke layer…above the marine layer, so the marine layer isn’t disturbing that smoke layer at all. [The smoke layer is] still dropping ash and all kinds of other crap on us, so the air quality is varying from moderate to poor, so it’s not going to be good until something shifts in the upper atmosphere to move some of that smoke away.”

Christian went on the say,

“I never have [seen anything like this] and I’ve covered massive fires before. I mean, back in my GMA days I covered the Oakland fires and the Malibu fires, and obviously now since I’ve been here in the Bay Area all these years I’ve covered the wildfires here. I’ve seen dark skies with an approaching tornado, I’ve seen black skies with a hurricane, but I’ve never seen anything like the way our sky looks today.

The skies will not last forever, Christian thinks the blue skies will return this weekend.

“By Friday or Saturday, we’re looking at enough of a shift in the pattern that some of this dirty smoke get may get blown out of the Bay Area. And if we get a good vigorous marine layer that that might bring some drizzle, which is a possibility overnight early morning drizzle that could cleanse the air a little bit, but I don’t think tomorrow is gonna look much better than today.”

Listen to Chip Franklin and Spencer Christian’s full conversation below.



KGO Events


Stay updated with KGO 810

Subscribe to KGO 810’s weekly eblast to get the latest information on local news, events, and exclusives from your favorite personalities.