orange sky

How San Francisco’s sky turned orange

The orange sky over the San Francisco Bay Area September 9 was something that no one who saw it will soon forget. It was a day where it never truly felt as if the sun had come up. Everything just kind of glowed in an alien form of twilight.

So why the glow from Mountain View up to Point Reyes and out across other parts of the West Coast? Moreover, why was there a real-life lens filter, which was obviously a product of this season’s fires, but not much smoke to be smelled on the ground? The answers, according to experts cited by SFGate, were assorted circumstances that converged on Northern California that day.

Basically, wind pushed a dense cloud of smoke over the region to diffuse the sunlight, but it was high enough to let another layer of air blow in off of the Pacific Ocean and insert itself underneath, minimizing the impact on breathable air quality (even if ash resembling snowfall still managed to find its way through to the ground).

That ash was easier to photograph than the orange sky itself for many people. I wondered about this myself when I first walked out that morning and tried to capture the Bladerunner 2049-esque creepiness. I quickly discovered what The Atlantic did, that modern smartphone cameras’ color correction can work against you—and that’s why I just pointed my camera straight up at the sky to message friends and family about what was going on (as if they hadn’t see it all over Twitter already).

Thankfully the sky has improved significantly as of today, even if the fires remain an ongoing danger for much of the region.