The San Francisco Bay Area awoke to a disorienting sight on Wednesday morning: deep orange skies and a smoky darkness lingered hours after sunrise, serving as a stark reminder of the wildfires still raging across California.
The phenomenon ― which was also seen in Oregon on Tuesday ― is a result of 16 different fire complexes burning in the region, dispersing smoke with the help of gusty wind.
“Strong winds over the past few days transported ash from fires in northern California and the Sierra Nevada into the region,” the Bay Area Air District, the region’s air quality control agency, explained in a tweet.
“If smoke becomes too thick in a certain area, most of the light will be scattered & absorbed before reaching the surface, which may cause dark skies.” A thick layer of marine fog below the smoky skies aided the effect.
The National Weather Service’s Bay Area branch warned that even though the air quality in the region was moderate on Wednesday morning, the “unprecedented smoke” hanging high in the air will likely descend closer to street level as the day goes on, making the air more dangerous to breathe.
It’s a familiar warning for Californians. Uncontrolled blazes across the state this year have so far burned a historic 2.3 million acres, representing a nearly 2,000% increase in land burned compared with this time last year, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
“This is yet another reminder though that we’re living with the effects of climate change in real time,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed tweeted Wednesday morning.
Here are some images of Wednesday’s orange skies, which many compared to a scene from Mars.
Jim McVeigh, a custodian, cleans the entrance of Children’s Fairyland, a small amusement park in Oakland, California, on Wednesday morning.
“This is feeding into my mind that this is a dream,” McVeigh told the San Francisco Chronicle. “The problem is it’s not bright enough to clean this.” He called it quits after an hour because of the poor light.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Oakland Temple was engulfed by smoke from surrounding wildfires.
A person exercises at an orange-tinted Lake Merritt in Oakland.
Two people take photos of the unusual light over the bay at Cesar Chavez Park in Berkeley, California.
A ferry terminal in San Francisco is illuminated by the orange glow.
Visitors to San Francisco’s Dolores Park observe the darkening sky.
A view of downtown San Francisco from Dolores Park on Sept. 9.