Sun Sinks in Smoke from Southern California

Sun descends into broad bank of smoke from fires in Southern California
Minutes later, the sun reappears briefly below the layer of smoke

In an eerie and chilling replay of the blood-red sunsets seen through the smoke from our nearby North Bay firestorms, the sun seen from Cesar Chavez Park this evening sank into a bank of dark matter stretching offshore from south to north as far as the eye could see.  Weather reports identified it as smoke from the fires in Southern California, more than 400 miles away.  

The layer of dark atmospheric particles had an orange-brown upper lining, unlike any of the fog banks that are a familiar sight along the coast.  And as the sun descended into the darkness, its light turned a fiery red in a hue quite unlike what fog does.  This was smoke, no doubt about it, and a passer-by at the park complained of smell and irritation.  Official air quality measurements for Berkeley from earlier in the day showed low particulate pollution and good air for outdoor exercise. 

The evening wind, fortunately, was from the east at a mild 6 mph, keeping the smoke out at sea.  The forecast for tonight and tomorrow calls for a continuation of easterly and northeasterly winds.  That can change quickly.  If the pall of smoke continues and the winds shift westerly, the Bay Area’s air quality can rapidly deteriorate.  

Seeing so much smoke on our horizon coming from so far away brought home the smallness of our planet.  Southern California doesn’t seem so far away right now.  The strangely colored bank of dark matter out at sea also conjured up dystopian visions of a nuclear winter, all too possible given the unstable moron in the White House.  

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