The skies in the Indonesia province of Jambi were blood red this week because of toxic haze from rainforest fires. The ominous looking hue is caused by a phenomenon called Mie scattering which ooccurs when sunlight is scattered by tiny pollution particles in the air and the diamenter of the particles is similar to the wavelength of visible sunlight according to the country’s Meteorology, climatology and Geophysics Agency.
The forest fires are as a result of the usual process that includes burning of forests to create land for farming and plantations cheaply in Indonesia. This time round though, the situation has worsened because of the ongoing drought.
One resident in Jambi province, who captured pictures of the sky, said the haze had “hurt her eyes and throat”.
Every year, fires in Indonesia create a smoky haze that can end up blanketing the entire South East Asian region.
Indonesia meteorological agency BMKG said satellite imagery revealed numerous hot spots and “thick smoke distribution” in the area around the Jambi region.
Associate Professor Koh Tieh Yong, of the Singapore University of Social Sciences, explained that this phenomenon, known as Rayleigh scattering, has to do with certain types of particles that are present during a period of haze.
“In the smoke haze, the most abundant particles are around 1 micrometre in size, but these particles do not change the color of the light we see,”
“There are also smaller particles, around 0.05 micrometres or less, that don’t make up a lot of the haze but are still somewhat more abundant during a haze period [than a normal non-haze period]… but this is enough to give an extra tendency to scatter red light more in the forward and backward directions than blue light – and that is why would you see more red than blue.”
He said the fact the photos were taken around noon could have caused the sky to appear more red.
“If the sun is overhead and you look up, [you will be looking] in the line of the sun, so it would appear that more of the sky is red.”
Prof Koh added that this phenomenon would not “modify the air temperature”.
The haze is caused by open burning in Indonesia and to a lesser extent, parts of Malaysia. The burning usually peaks from July to October during Indonesia’s dry season. According to Indonesia’s national disaster agency, some 328,724 hectares of land had already been burnt in the first eight months of the year.
Part of the blame for the haze lies with big corporations and small-scale farmers, which take advantage of the dry conditions to clear vegetation for palm oil, pulp and paper plantations using the slash-and-burn method.
It is believed that over 1 million people are suffering from health related illnesses as a result of the haze with thousands projected to also fall sick because of the same.
Author: Moses Echodu
Moses is a freelance writer for Newslibre and Programs Manager at the Craft Silicon Foundation. He loves writing about sports, politics and news around the globe and Inspiring new young people!!