How smoke from wildfires 2,000 miles out west is affecting Indiana and the Midwest

Rashika Jaipuriar
Indianapolis Star
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From more than 2,000 miles away, the Hoosier state is feeling the impact of wildfires out west.

The effects are subtle yet noticeable, according to the National Weather Service in Indianapolis. You might see a more red morning sun and hazier skies — even sunsets this week might be more colorful — and that's because of the smoke in the upper atmosphere.

"We've got an area of high pressure sitting over the Rockies and it's pretty large," said Kacie Hoover, a NWS meteorologist. "So it's just the way the airflow is going from the Pacific Northwest into Western Canada and then all of that air is being brought down into the Midwest, which is why we're seeing the smoke above us."

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Indianapolis residents can look up and see the fires' impacts as the pattern continues, Hoover said. She also expects "dry, quiet, warm weather" for the rest of the week.

"It's just gonna look a little hazier," Hoover said. "We have clear skies at the moment, but it doesn't really look like it just because of that smoke aloft ...  the moon and the sun will have some different coloring. We might end up with a more colorful sunset."

The prettier sunsets can be linked to the wildfires because the sun takes on different tints depending on what's up in the atmosphere, according to the Earth System Research Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That means smoke or dust particles traveling here, even if they are really high up in the atmosphere, can make longer wavelengths of light — which look red — scatter more effectively. 

It's a phenomena affecting other states, too.

"From Maine to Texas to South Dakota, many NWS offices are seeing hazy skies this morning!" NWS Indianapolis tweeted Tuesday.

As of Tuesday, more than 80 wildfires were raging across 13 states, including California and Nevada. One of the largest, the Bootleg Fire, in remote Oregon has burned almost 500 square miles — that's greater than the size of the city of Indianapolis.

Shari Rudavsky contributed to this report.

Contact Rashika Jaipuriar at and follow her on Twitter @rashikajpr.

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