Wildfire smoke could turn this weekend’s buck moon blood-red

Red and orange colours can pass through the haze created by wildfire smoke, creating an eclipse-like view of the moon

Bevan Hurley
New York
Friday 23 July 2021 16:29
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The smoky skies that enveloped New York City this week are poised to put on one final spectacle: a blood-red buck moon.

July’s full moon, dubbed a ‘buck moon’, will appear in the skies at 10:37pm EST Friday, and will appear especially large because when it’s near the horizon due to the ‘moon illusion’.

And while it usually only turns red or orange during a lunar eclipse, the extraordinary amount of smoke still hanging in the air from the Bootleg Fire in Oregon could transform its colour.

“When you do have wildfire smoke, especially high up in the atmosphere, you typically do see your moon kind of turn reddish or orange,” University of Minnesota assistant professor Jesse Berman told Business Insider.

Berman, who studies extreme weather and air pollution, explained this occurs because the smoke particles block shorter wavelengths of sunlight, such as blues and greens.

The longer wavelengths on the visible light spectrum, such as reds and oranges, can still pass through the blanket of smoke.

The name ‘buck moon’ comes from the season when the antlers of male deer are in a growth spurt, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

The male deer sheds and grows its antlers back each year, and July is when they grow fastest.

On Thursday night, the nearly-full blood moon could be seen as it rose over New York. The moon will appear full through until Sunday morning, NASA says.

On Tuesday, the smoke and haze from the fires turned the sun a deep reddish colour as it rose over the New York City skyline.

This was a result of the dozens of wildfires burning in the western United States and Canada.

The Bootleg Fire in particular is so intense that it is creating pyrocummulus clouds, pushing the smoke high into the atmosphere, from which it was carried 3000 miles eastwards by winds.

It caused New York to have among the worst air quality in the world earlier this week.

The Associated Press reported people in some parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and upstate New York who suffer from heart disease, asthma and other respiratory issues were told to avoid the outdoors. Air quality alerts for parts of the region remained in place through Thursday.

As wildfires in the west become ever more intense as a result of climate change, meteorologists predict the haze-filled skies will become a common sight on the East Coast.

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