Eerie sky: Ophelia kicks up Saharan dust, wildfire smoke in Britain

The sky turns orange over a statue of former Prime Minster Winston Churchill in Westminster in London on Monday. The remnants of Hurricane Ophelia pulled in tropical air, dust and debris from southern Europe and Africa to change the color of the sky. Photo by Neil Hall/EPA-EFE

Oct. 17 (UPI) — The remnants of Hurricane Ophelia whipped up dust from the Sahara Desert and smoke from Portuguese wildfires, casting an eerie, orange glow across portions of Britain on Monday.

People in Britain, including London, woke up to a red sun and a similar sepia-toned sky, prompting social media posts questioning the cause of the unusual color.

Britain’s Met Office for weather and climate said former Hurricane Ophelia wind gusts blew Saharan dust and smoke from fires in the northern Iberian Peninsula north into the atmosphere over the country.

“Saharan dust and smoke from wildfires in northern Iberia scattered the blue light from the sun, letting more red light through,” the Met Office said on Twitter.

Dust particles can block the path of light that has shorter wavelengths, such as blue and violet. When only longer wavelength light like yellow, orange and red, pass through the atmosphere, the sky appears orange-hued.

The remnants of Ophelia were centered along the northwest Irish coast Monday evening local time. The storm killed at least three people in the country. At least 120,000 homes were without power and officials ordered lockdowns for virtually all locations in the storm’s path.

Meanwhile, some 500 wildfires killed at least 39 people in Portugal and Spain over the weekend and Monday. Forecasters there said the winds brought by Hurricane Ophelia to Europe’s west coast fanned the flames in a land already parched by drought and high temperatures.


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