Ash, Smoke Cast Eery Orange Glow Over Santa Clara Valley

Ominous skies. Falling ash. A 20-degree temperature drop in the span of a day.

California has never seen anything quite like this.

New York Times journalist Thomas Fuller likened the apocalyptic orange pall fueled by hundreds of wildfires burning up and down the state to “a nuclear winter.” The Los Angeles Times called it “the day the sun gave up on 2020.”

The hazy atmosphere evokes dawn or dusk, sunrise or sunset—even at high noon—which has warped many peoples sense of time.

“Some figured they were dreaming and went back to bed,” Michael Cabanantuan and Steve Rubenstein wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Some students slept through the start of their remote learning classes because it was still dark outside. And at least one father told his children they had moved overnight to Mars.”

The sky usually looks blue because of the way sunlight reflects off molecules in what scientists call a Rayleigh scattering. Larger particles wafting on a marine layer over the Bay Area scatter more than just the blue part of the color spectrum, including violet and green. What does that leave for the naked eye?

What we’re seeing now: orange and red.

Sunrises and sunsets exude a similar hue for the same reason—because of light filtering, or scattering, through more of the atmosphere as the sun nears the horizon.

Images of the eery phenomenon captured attention around the world.

Former President Barack Obama tweeted photos of the orange skies on Wednesday, saying they should remind us about the realities of climate change.

Presidential hopeful Joe Biden called the photos “horrifying.”

The colors overhead have since shifted from rust to more of an Instagram filter-like sepia. The air remains cool, but still unhealthy to breathe.

Forecasters expect the smoke-cooling reprieve from record heat to last for another few days, with highs in the 75-to-80-degree Fahrenheit range until the skies clear up again.

One Comment

  1. Obama’s statement that “protecting our planet is on the ballot” is only true because, at least in California, there will be presidential and down ballot alternatives to the mainline, establishment Democrats and Republicans. (I, for one, will be voting Green.) He certainly can’t mean that by voting for Biden and the “usual suspect” Democrats that anything fundamental will change, can he? (

    This is coming from a former president–the slickest salesman ever to hold that office–who presided over the largest increase in fossil fuel production in the modern history of the U.S. (; While CNN and other mainstream coverage has attempted to shield Obama and his administration from blame, Obama eliminated all doubt in 2018 when he publicly bragged about his responsibility for the surge in climate-destroying fossil fuels production (

    Then there was Governor Newsom’s tantrum a few days ago regarding climate change denial ( My instantaneous response was “me thinks Gavin doth protest too much.” For those with a search engine, Newsom’s theatrics could not hide his environment-destroying policy agenda that has included a rapid increase in state-issued permits for oil and gas drilling and fracking and relaxed regulations and oversight of the main energy corporations operating in California (; Newsom, despite his campaign statements opposing fracking, has in less than two years done a great deal to boost climate-heating oil and gas interests in the state. He is apparently trying to outdo his predecessor on this, Jerry Brown (

    The biggest environmental danger Californians may be facing is the deception of leaders like Obama, Biden, Newsom and Brown, the boys in blue masquerading as green. Then only green they respect is that provided by their wealthy corporate donors and the lobbyists with whom they write legislation and co-manage the regulation and oversight of the fossil fuel industry in California.

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