A red sun rose over SE Wyoming today, sunlight filtering out through a haze of smoke.

Did you know? Red suns and moons are the product of sunlight filtering through smoke. Scientific American explains that the sun, sky, and moon may appear red or orange through smoke because of how light streams through the haze. According to the publication, "smoke will bend blue light much more than red light." The smoke absorbs the blue light, and the sky "colors red and orange because redlight passes through the smoke "unscathed."

Wyoming has been remarkably lucky during the Fire Season of 2023. Thus far, the state has not faced wildfires capable of the damage spread by the Mullen Fire in 2020, which desolated 176,878 acres of Wyoming land. So, where is the smoke blanketing SE Wyoming today coming from?

Smoke From Canadian Wildfires Surround Much of the Midwest

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that thick smoke from wildfires burning in Canada continues to plague the United States, noting that "A number of states in the northern Plains and Upper Midwest will have poor air quality today from Canadian wildfire smoke."

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported that by September 3, wildfires had blazed through over 15 million hectares of land across Canada, roughly equivalent to 37,065,807 acres. To put that in perspective, the 2023 Canadian wildfires have burned land the size of Iowa, USA (35.7 million acres.)

The smoke from these Canadian wildfires has spread south, impacting much of the Midwest and the Great Plains region. The current Air Quality map by AirNow.gov indicates that Northern Wyoming is experiencing unhealthy air quality with an AQI of 113 to 166 from Sheridan to Gillette. (Visit AirNow.gov for a nationwide smoke map.)

SE Wyoming's air quality fares better but still remains poor today. Areas between Laramie to Cheyenne have moderate air quality (62 AQI), meaning sensitive individuals, i.e., young children and individuals with allergies or asthma, may experience discomfort. Areas further east, like Carpenter, WY, are experiencing unhealthier air conditions (109 AQI) for sensitive groups.

What is AQI?

AQI stands for "Air Quality Index." It is a measurement of air quality based on how polluted the air in an area is. Pollutants can come from smog, smoke, allergens, and other factors.

The scale of AIQ is as follows:

  • Good (Green): 0 to 50 AQI
  • Moderate (Yellow): 51 to 100 AQI
  • Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (Orange): 101 to 150 AQI
  • Unhealthy (Red): 151 to 200 AQI
  • Very Unhealthy (Purple): 201 to 300 AQI
  • Hazardous (Maroon): 301+ AQI

For more information on AQI, visit the Environmental Protection Agency's website here.

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