Wildfire smoke could turn this weekend’s full Buck Moon an ominous blood red

blood moon auckland
A total lunar eclipse turns the moon red in Auckland, New Zealand on May 26.

A full Buck Moon is rising this weekend, and it may appear orange or blood red in skies across North America.

Normally, the moon turns orange or red during an eclipse, when Earth blocks sunlight and our atmosphere reflects red light onto the lunar surface instead. But this time is unusual. Instead of being eclipsed by Earth’s shadow, the moon may be eclipsed in many places by layers of smoke.

Wildfires have exploded across the Pacific Northwest over the last month, fueled by dry vegetation and a series of heat waves made possible by the warming climate. The largest, Oregon’s Bootleg Fire, has grown to nearly twice the size of New York City and started generating its own weather.

The blazes are sending smoke roiling across the continent, prompting air-quality alerts from Minnesota to North Carolina and tinting skies orange as far east as New York and Washington, DC.

north america map shows black carbon soots across northwest northeast central US
A map shows the concentration of black carbon particulates (aka soot) over North America on July 21, 2021.

That’s because the particles in wildfire smoke block shorter wavelengths of sunlight – the blues and greens – and allow the longer, redder wavelengths to pass through. The moon will be no exception to this paintbrush of sweeping smoke.

“When you do have wildfire smoke, especially high up in the atmosphere, you typically do see your moon kind of turn reddish or orange,” Jesse Berman, an assistant professor in environmental health at the University of Minnesota, where he studies extreme weather and air pollution, told Insider.

If the smoke is low and thick enough, it could block out the moon entirely. But, Berman said, “it’s very likely that any area experiencing a wildfire-smoke exposure can see this red or orange moon.”

orange moon next to empire state building spire
The moon, appearing orange due to smoke haze from forest fires, passes the spire of the Empire State Building in Manhattan, New York City, July 20, 2021.

The moon will appear full Thursday night through Sunday morning, peaking on Friday night, according to NASA.

In the month of July, the full moon is often called the Buck Moon. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, this name comes from the Algonquin peoples, who share a family of languages and originate from the area that today ranges from New England as far west as Lake Superior. The name refers to buck deer’s antlers emerging in summer.

Widespread wildfire smoke could become common

oregon bootleg fire burns trees hazy skies
The Bootleg Fire burns through vegetation near Paisley, Oregon, July 20, 2021.

Wildfires that produce continent-sweeping smoke clouds could become annual events, if not occurring “multiple times every single year,” Berman said.

“We do expect these events to become not only more frequent, but possibly more severe in the future as our climate tends to shift towards drier conditions, to hotter conditions, to areas where you have less frequent rainfall,” he added. “Every one of these wildfire events is an opportunity for that smoke to travel long distances and affect not only the people nearby, but also those very far away.”

bootleg fire oregon pyrocumulonimbus clouds
A drone photographed this pyrocumulus cloud, also known as a fire cloud, over the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon on July 14, 2021.

If smoke stays high in the atmosphere, it probably won’t affect air quality for people on the ground. However, it sometimes falls back down and fills the air we breathe with hazardous particles – hundreds or even thousands of miles from the fire that created it.

The microscopic particles in wildfire smoke can penetrate deep into the lungs and even the bloodstream. Research has connected wildfire-particle pollution to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and premature death.

In healthy people short-term, it can irritate the eyes and lungs and cause wheezing, coughs, or difficulty breathing. Young children, the elderly, and people with preexisting conditions like asthma or COPD are particularly vulnerable to more serious effects.

As smoke wafts over his Minnesota home, Berman has had his two young children play inside instead of going to the park. The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends keeping doors and windows closed when wildfire smoke is impacting air quality, and designating a “clean room” with a portable air cleaner and no cooking, smoking, or candle-burning.

“Right now, nothing has shown that the conditions are going to become markedly better in the future,” Berman said. “Instead, we’re really predicting that conditions are going to continue to get worse.”

“It doesn’t matter where you’re living,” he continued. “You can be affected by these events the same as anyone else.”

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Sustainability isn’t just good business – it’s a huge recruitment tool, these execs say

Insider's Karen Ho interviews Mark Frohnmayer, founder and president of electric-vehicles maker Arcimoto (c) and Are Traasdahl, CEO at Crisp, a food-supply analytics software platform, during an Insider virtual event on June 29, 2021
Insider’s Karen Ho interviews Mark Frohnmayer, founder and president of electric-vehicles maker Arcimoto (c) and Are Traasdahl, CEO at Crisp, a food-supply analytics software platform.

  • Corporations want to be more sustainable, and the pandemic has shown we need to all work together.
  • Competing with tech giants for talent can be hard, but working for a sustainable business is a draw.
  • This was part of Insider’s virtual event “What’s next: CEOs on How Talent Drives Transformation” presented by ProEdge, a PwC Product, on Tuesday.
  • Click here to watch a recording of the full event.

Mark Frohnmayer, founder and president of electric-vehicles maker Arcimoto, believes that the biggest misconception related to sustainability is that people can’t change.

“The other misperception is that we can take our time,” he said during Insider’s recent virtual event “What’s next: CEOs on How Talent Drives Transformation” presented by ProEdge, a PwC Product, which took place June 29.

The panel, titled “Accelerating the green transformation to drive growth and sustainability,” was moderated by Karen Ho, senior reporter for the business of sustainability at Insider, and featured Frohnmayer and Are Traasdahl, CEO at Crisp, a food-supply analytics software platform.

Both speakers agreed that the pandemic has shown how people can come together to tackle a global problem. For Traasdahl, whose company is using data to stop food waste, corporate sustainability is the art of the possible.

“Most people believe that large, small, medium-sized companies do not want to share the data because there can be some competitive information, pricing information,” he said. “They want to share – there just haven’t been any tools in place to share this data.”

Traasdahl is trying to solve the “huge paradox” of a world where 750 million to two billion people live with moderate to severe food insecurity, while nearly one-third of all food produced goes to waste.

“The pandemic forced everybody in this industry to actually start breaking open supply chains that they haven’t touched in 30 years and understanding how they can be much more proactive,” he said.

Frohnmayer said the disruption to supply chains affected Arcimoto’s manufacturing, but he believes the benefits of everyone traveling less during lockdowns are a long-term positive.

“Many areas in the world saw clean skies for the first time in some people’s lives during the beginning of the pandemic as industries shuttered operations,” he said. “What we’re building really is at the confluence of autonomy, lightweight electric platforms, shared mobility, and that’s a really key piece of driving a solution to carbon emissions.”

Competing with giants such as Facebook and Amazon for talent presents its challenges, but working for a sustainable business can be a strong recruiting tool.

“Everybody who joins Crisp feels like they have a connection to the mission that we have as a company,” Traasdahl said. He pointed to an internal survey which showed that 46% of employees have an “idealistic focus” in terms of their career, some three times the market average.

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