Thanks to an unusually dry and warm winter and spring, the wildfire season in Canada has gotten off to a fast start. For the past several weeks, large wildfires have been burning throughout the western part of the country, with most of the fires located in northern Alberta and parts of northern Saskatchewan.
This week, the position of the jet stream has been directing smoke from the fires high into the atmosphere, typically where a plane flies, and down into the Midwest and eastern part of the United States, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.
As the smoke continues to drift throughout parts of the country, it has brought vivid sunsets. On Tuesday, onlookers in the Carolinas captured breathtaking images of sunsets ranging in color from pink to orange to dark red.
According to Anderson, "The clouds of smoke and particles that accumulate in the atmosphere during a wildfire will scatter the light as it passes through and attempts to reach Earth."
As previously reported by AccuWeather Staff Writer Alexa Lewis, "particles, including smoke, in the atmosphere transform how waves of light act as they travel toward Earth."
The wavelength of each respective color of light also influences how it reaches Earth. Blue light has a shorter wavelength than red light and is more easily scattered by a wildfire's debris. The debris isn't able to displace red wavelengths as easily, meaning visible red light can reach the viewer.
In addition to causing hazy skies, Anderson said the wildfire smoke can also impact air quality if it's low enough and also cause a change in temperature.
"When you have smoke in the air it reflects more of the sun's light back into space so that can have a cooling affect, maybe a degree or two, depending on how thick it is [and] what the temperature normal would've been without the smoke," Anderson said.
Since the smoke is very high in the atmosphere, it shouldn't impact the quality of the air in the Midwest and Northeast, he said. As the week continues, Anderson said the jet stream will retreat to the north, causing more of the smoke to head out to sea or move into New England and Atlantic Canada.
The Canada Interagency Forest Fire Centre reports 2,814 fires to date in 2015 and 39 new fires in the last 24 hours.
Cooler, wetter weather will arrive Friday and last into the weekend, which could help slow down the fires, Anderson said. However, most of the bigger fires will likely last through the end of the summer, he added.