September 25, 2023

The Domestikated Life

One Passion

San Francisco’s Sky Is Orange Because of Wildfire Smoke

  • The sky over San Francisco was remarkably dark and orange on Wednesday.
  • Scientists say the color comes from smoke particles from wildfires across the state.
  • San Francisco residents took to social media to share the sky, comparing it to sci-fi films like “Blade Runner.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

As California experiences one of its most severe wildfire seasons on record, the sky in San Francisco turned an ominous orange color on Wednesday.

“We are living in a world that has been influenced by global warming, and we’re feeling the impacts,” Noah Diffenbaugh, a professor at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences, said, explaining the causes and context of this unusual weather event. He told Business Insider that his research group recently found that the frequency of extreme wildfire weather in California has doubled over the last 40 years. 


Long term warming, the temperature’s effect on the dryness of vegetation, and the ignition of strong winds lead to these extreme fires. The wind is also responsible for sending smoke towards San Francisco. The combined smoke flumes from fires around California have blanketed the Pacific coast, blocking sunlight and causing the eerie orange sky.


Local news channel KRON4 reported that smoke particles can scatter sunlight in a way that it appears reddish-orange as they settle in the air.


Eric Risberg/AP

Residents posted photos and videos of the unsettling horizon on social media. 

Many found the sky scary, and a few even compared it to the sci-fi  “Blade Runner” movies that are set in a dystopian future Los Angeles.


Several people, including Bloomberg reporter Sarah Frier, noted that they had to manually turn off color-correcting camera features to capture the view.

Diffenbaugh emphasized that that wildfires result from a confluence of conditions, and warming global temperatures are just one factor that people can consider in disaster prevention. He warned that with temperatures projected to increase three to five degrees by the end of the century, there will likely be fewer resources to fight many fires burning simultaneously.