Dust stirred by ex hurricane Ophelia turned UK skies red

Via NASA’s Spaceweather.com For the past two days, sky watchers in parts of Europe have reported strange colors in the daytime sky. “There’s a red glow overhead and the sun looks like a big Orange,” says Vincent Phillips, who sends this picture from Hale village near Liverpool UK:

“This is apparently due to ex-hurricane Ophelia, which dragged up tropical air and dust from the Sahara desert when it battered the western UK earlier this week,” says Phillips. “The air is full of fine dust. We had several inbound flights into Liverpool Airport declare emergencies after strange smells in cockpits of aircraft yesterday.”

Atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley adds his own report: “I was driving near London yesterday afternoon and I experienced the strange skies at first hand. At first the sky was yellowish orange with the sun showing through as a blurred and lurid red. But quite unlike a sunset color. Gradually the sun was fully obscured and at 3pm headlights were needed. The sky was an unearthly yellow red.”

“Given that over the last few days the U.K. has had unseasonably high temperatures and southerly winds associated partly with Ophelia, I think that fine dust/sand carried from the Sahara was the culprit,” says Cowley.

Similar reports are coming in from the Netherlands, Germany, and other parts of the UK, as forest fires in the Iberian peninsula add their ash to the desert dust, intensifying the phenomenon.


Red Sun
Taken by Pete Glastonbury on October 14, 2017 @ Devizes, Wiltshire, UK

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57 thoughts on “Dust stirred by ex hurricane Ophelia turned UK skies red

  1. I wonder if it isn’t more smoke related from the fires in Portugal. Pictures look identical to the fires in the Pacific Northwest this summer, or California this week. Sure would take a big sand storm from the Sahara to be responsible for that, and I don’t think tropical storm Ophelia was anywhere near North Africa that whipped up that much dust. I suppose it could be coincidental, although the fires on the Iberian Peninsula sound like a much better explanation.

    • I can think of a number of times over the years when fine sand has been blown from the Sahara and deposited on cars in the UK.

      In southern England I first noticed the light after walking from my office at lunchtime. The light was casting a very walk orange glow on everything giving a ‘depth’ and richness that is only very occasionally seen with some sunsets.

    • I see many direct observations from locals saying there was dust on cars etc, so maybe a coincidence of the 3 events (Ophelia, sand storm and Iberian fires/smoke) Winds were from the south. Fascinating! Hopefully no comets in tonights skies…I stand corrected.

    • Here in southern CA we are getting snowed on in October from the ash fall.
      That’s what brooms are for.

  2. Fire smoke and ash, same as Washington and Oregon states this fall and California right now.
    Or space aliens….. or chem trails, or electric universe, or …… climate change, Oh My!

  3. Experiences from Holland: already Monday I found fine Sahara desert dust on my car. Yesterday, Tuesday I was leaving a building at one o’clock and someone surprised said looking up: “Hé, look! The moon!”. And I explained that it had to be the sun, shining through a thin cloud. But later I learned that our Dutch meteorological institute KNMI said Tuesday that there were no clouds at all above our country and that what we experienced was a layer of dust, high in the air, that looked like a cloud coverage*. The institute estimated that temperatures were as much as 2-4 degrees lower than expected because of the dust.* Which made me think about the temporary temperature effect of volcano dust. And about the cooling effect during daytime of normal clouds that don’t permit us to see the contours of the sun at all.

    * (in Dutch) http://www.knmi.nl/over-het-knmi/nieuws/gedimde-zon-door-rook-en-zand

    Picture of the sun through ‘dust and smoke clouds’ from the KNMI news message:

    http://cdn.knmi.nl/system/updates/image2s/000/002/589/dual/Gedimde_zon_door_rook_20171017_Josine_Camps_1.JPG?1508236678

      • Interesting stuff, Frederik, but it would appear to confirm that it was the Saharan sand that caused the strange skies in the UK, as these ocurred on the Monday. However, it does support the view that both sand and smoke were contributors to atmospheric conditions at various times during the early part of the week.

      • Jim Ross, you made me doubt. But, the Sahara sand I found on my car on Monday as I noticed above (see October 17, 2017 at 9:59 pm) did NOT hide the sun: it was a rare very clear, sunny and warm October day which made me visit the beach at midday (150 km right north of the middle of Belgium that is shown in the above graphics of Frederik).

        But Tuesday was completely different. Maximum temperatures fell with a 7 degrees (as is shown here: http://www.knmi.nl/nederland-nu/klimatologie/maand-en-seizoensoverzichten/lopende_maand) and the sky really looked cloudy as I wrote above. As you should expect: in Dutch we say “wolken rook” which we can translate as “clouds of smoke”. Therefore I can agree with the findings of Frederik. Smoke looks different and also smells different. In the article above we read for England “The air is full of fine dust. We had several inbound flights into Liverpool Airport declare emergencies after strange smells in cockpits of aircraft yesterday.”. ‘Yesterday’ was Monday October 16. For that same Monday late in the afternoon (3 PM) is said in the article by Les Cowley: “I was driving near London yesterday afternoon (….) Gradually the sun was fully obscured and at 3pm headlights were needed. The sky was an unearthly yellow red.”

        This seems to confirm the switch from ‘sand’ to ‘smoke’ as noticed for West Belgium as shown by the Lider data (here: the town of Zeebrugge, nearest to the in the above mentioned London). Zeebrugge starts its red circle (rook = fuméé = smoke) already at Monday afternoon, more or less at the same time Les Cowley describes the switch to “an unearthly yellow red” for London.

        Therefore I must agree with Frederik: the red colour came by the smokey part. The smokey part (at its own level) was situated on Monday more to the West (over London) than the transport of sand (which was Monday also above the Netherlands). At Tuesday the smokey part also reached the Netherlands (more to the East) and as described above and as seen in the LIDAR data for Belgium .

        The interesting climate thing here is, that sand particles seem to influence day temperatures much less than clouds of smoke as shown by the KNMI graph mentioned above, stressing the role of H2O clouds in temperature regulation. A difference of 7 degrees Celsius in maximum temperature was noticed for the Netherlands for Tuesday, while the day after the smoke cloud maximum temperatures rose again some degrees.

  4. It was definitely visible on Monday morning in the south west of England. The local news put it down to both Saharan dust (tho I never saw any on any surfaces) and smoke from the wild fires in Portugal.

  5. A red sun was definitely visible on Monday morning in the south west of England through a thin veil of clouds. The local news put it down to both Saharan dust (tho I never saw any on any surfaces) and smoke from the wild fires in Portugal.

  6. Red sky in the morning,
    Tis a sailors’ warning.
    Red sky before tea,
    Tis a parsons’ ‘God bless me’.
    Red sky at night,
    Tis a shepherds’ delight.

  7. In east Sweden we had a dark cloudy morning and flights had to land because it smelled fire smoke.
    I looked at earth.nullschool.net and observed wind coming from northern Portugal where fires where intense. It was more intense and direct at higher altitudes.
    Portugal is closer to Sweden than Sahara!

  8. If ex-hurricane Ophelia can lift, stir and carry Saharan sand (about 1,200 kg/m3) enough to block the sun hundreds, perhaps even thousands of kilometres, how about air (about 1.2 kg/m3)?

  9. The Britts wouldn’t allow those refuges to enter so they any good Monty Pythonite they kick dust in their general direction.

    • Britain more than meets its international obligations to genuine refugees. The welfare freeloaders are the problem. Having said that thanks to US for finally dealing with Abu Hamza since our politicians were too feeble and inept to do so (the principal culprit is now our Prime Minister, God help us).

      • “Having said that thanks to US for finally dealing with Abu Hamza since our politicians were too feeble and inept to do so (the principal culprit is now our Prime Minister, God help us).”

        Actually it was EU law that prevented it …. from which May is now trying to leave.

      • Not eu law. The human rights act implements the European convention on human rights, which was never an eu institution.

        When we leave the eu, we will still be subject to the echr.

      • archie
        “When we leave the eu, we will still be subject to the echr.”
        There are various nuances.
        In the EU we absolutely have to take whatever verdict the ECHR hands down. some of the apparent lunacies of recent years have had that as a cause [and a typical British Civil Service ‘Let’s gold-plate the need!’ approach].
        See Christopher Booker for examples galore!
        After leaving, we can leave the ECHR altogether, if we chose, or seek to apply its in a more measured, more sensible way.
        So, for example, CO2 will not be a toxin after Brexit. [I am not sure the ECHR has slavishly followed the Moonbeam doctrine from California/EPA, but you get the general picture, I hope!].

        Auto
        Looking towards a time when judges in the UK interpret and enforce the law – not make it.
        Mind, that also means the Legislature -Commons and Lords alike – needs to pass clear laws!

  10. It did!

    The sky over London at 3pm was the colour of the Martian sky in NASA photos… all the lights came on.

    • Makes a change from green schemes making the lights go out.

      Many local authorities in the UK have switched off selected street lighting because they can no longer afford the electricity bills. I suspect it will be a long time before they can afford to switch them back on again. In the mean time, I am still waiting to see an analysis of accident and crime rates in areas that have street lighting switched off. I’ll probably have to wait a long time for that as well.

      • michael hart.
        If the actual data shows the outcomes you and I suspect, we WILL have to wait a very long time indeed . . . .

        Auto

      • “Many local authorities in the UK have switched off selected street lighting because they can no longer afford the electricity bills.”

        “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.” – Sir Edward Grey, 3 August, 1914

        Your comment simply reminded me of that.

  11. Red dust on cars is reasonably common but the red sun was unusual. We also got fine yellow dust from the Icelandic volcano in 2010. That got through my ‘Goretex style’ breathable car cover.

    • “Red dust on cars is reasonably common but the red sun was unusual.”

      Correct.
      It was the concentration of particulate in the atmosphere that was unusual.

  12. Here in SW London (UK) It started lighter then soon after got stronger hue of orange, eventually turning to shade of brown-orange with the street lights switching on. Sun was visible trough light cloud and appeared an odd pinkish red colour.

  13. Over Devon we started off with a weird greenish light but the most noticeable effect was the strange smell ! Burning / musty sort of smell. We had it in the South Hams and it was reported by one of my Facebook friends who lives in North Devon.

  14. I was recording fine ash particles from the Portuguese and Galician wild fires two days before the red sun and orange sky. The latter reminded me of the harmattan (Sahara dust) I used to see in the 1960s in Northern Nigeria. The dust usually occurs a couple of times a year in south-east England when the wind is from the south. The fine ash particles from Portugal and Galician Spain probably combined with the Saharan dust on this occasion to provide a rare spectacle.

  15. We had orange sun a lot of the day, but an incredibly dense band of dust arrived at about 14:00hrs, it looked like doomsday approaching and it went as dark as night, except orange!, for over an hour.

    It showed up on the rain radar as a distinct feature but produced no rain.

    I haven’t seen a sky like it since a freak (for the UK) thunderstorm that produced golf ball sized hail.

  16. Not since Mr Turner’s’ days perhaps, with his iconic paintings of London sky’s after Krakatoa erupted.

  17. “Ex-hurricane” is an important term. I am encountering friends claiming that a hurricane hit Ireland and it’s unprecedented.

  18. If ex-hurricane Ophelia is able to lift, stir and carry sand (1200 kg/m3) enough to block the sun hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away, what is it able to do with thin air (1.2 kg/m3)?

  19. Dr Beth Steer (Nottingham university) collected samples from her car windscreen and put them under a scanning electron microscope.

    “The particles themselves contain sand grains [quartz], clays and feldspars – all of which are expected in Saharan dust……
    It’s possible that some of the carbon rich material I saw was originating from the forest fire, but it is more difficult to diagnose. I didn’t see any clear pieces of charred wood or similar. Though I did see flakes of carbon, these could also have come from a variety of sources not linked to the fires.”

  20. some nice fertilization for next springs plankton and new recruits of various fish species . all good :)

  21. The red sky reached us here in southern Sweden on Tuesday. Fascinating, the Sahara is a loooong distance away from Scandinavia.

  22. Could it have been the Sahara dust and smoke from the European fires which initially seeded all of the recent Atlantic hurricanes and even increased intensities?

  23. It’s not the first wind system to bring sand to England, it’s happened a number of times and made the press and TV news when its coated cars. The Portugal fires are extra, but who knows who started them.

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