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May-June 2016

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Weather Front

Fireworks Lower Visibility

Along with outdoor festivals and street fairs, summer brings bonfires, fireworks, and, most likely, measurable haze. According to a study out of the United Kingdom, the result may be a significant reduction in atmospheric visibility. Using measurements from 34 meteorological stations across the UK, atmospheric scientists recorded a 25% reduction in visibility on Guy Fawkes Night, a celebration marked by the country's largest fireworks display and abundant bonfires. The incendiaries triple the amount of fine carbon particles in the air. Although the “smoke cleared” after a day or two, the reduction in visibility was significant enough that it could have affected highway safety and air traffic. The effect was greatest when relative humidity and background particulate levels were already high.       

KIMBRA CUTLIP is a freelance writer and former assistant editor for Weatherwise.       

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