Last night’s intensely red sunset and this morning’s equally intensely coloured sunrise are the result of the forest fires ravaging the coast of Northern California, according to Frank Deboosere, weather forecaster for the VRT.
“The smoke in California goes very high up into the air, into the atmosphere. And travelling via the jet stream that air travels around the world,” he explained.
California suffered its warmest August since records began last month. Meanwhile in the state of Oregon to the north, tens of people are missing after homes burned down and people were caught trying to escape. Some 40,000 people have been evacuated as a precaution, but the fear is that not all made it out.
Firefighters have now been joined by those searching for bodies amid the destruction.
Last night California governor Gavin Newsom (D) made an impassioned video appeal for the situation to be taken seriously. Newsom was responding to a suggestion by US president Donald Trump that the fires were the result of bad forest management.
“I’m tired of having to have this discussion over and over again,” he said.
“This is a climate emergency. This is real.”
In 2018, Trump raised eyebrows, not least among the Finnish people, when he claimed the Finnish president had told him how Finland avoids forest fires.
“I was with the president of Finland and he said: ‘We have, much different, we are a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation. And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem.”
And now the smoke has travelled the almost 9,000km from California to Belgium.
“Although it is at a height of six or seven kilometres,” Deboosere said.
“The result is that the sky is no longer so blue, and that the sunsets and sunrises are a bit redder and more brightly coloured.”
The coming days, he forecast, promise more of the same.
“Once the smoke is this high, it lingers for a long time. We have seen that in the past, during large forest fires or volcanic eruptions. The smoke can circulate around the world a number of times.”
And however infernal it may appear, the smoke is not harmful.
“It’s made up of harmless smoke particles that are already very diluted, but with beautiful sunrises and sunsets as a result,” Deboosere said.