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This Is Why The Sky's Gone Yellow, And No, You're Not Going To Die

Not yet, anyway.

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The sky has gone yellow above parts of the UK, and this is alarming some people.

Red sky at night: shepherd's delight Orange sky in the middle of the afternoon: apocalypse #RedSun #Ophelia…

It's even showing up in the background on BBC News, which obviously is when people really start to worry.

John Redwood, Conservative MP for Mordor. #redsun

And it sort of feels like an ~obvious metaphor~.

John Redwood is speaking to the BBC beneath a red sky and with Big Ben in a cage.

Is it the End of Days?

#RedSun/#YellowSky update: There's quite a party atmosphere around my office. At least, I think that's what it is.

Another bloody PR stunt?

Hmmmm this yellow sky looks a little like Blade Runner 2049... maybe this is a massive publicity stunt.

Or is it what it looks like?

Are we all going to DIE?

Can anyone remind me what comes next, is it the locusts or the frogs?

No. It's not a harbinger of immediate doom.

Or at least, not today, probably, unless Trump. BuzzFeed News phoned up the Met Office to confirm that we weren't all about to face the final judgment, and the Met Office said "probably not".

Instead, it's dust in the atmosphere kicked up by ex-hurricane Ophelia, along with smoke from wildfires on the Iberian peninsula.

Caused by Saharan dust being drawn northwards by #Ophelia, we have welcomed an incredibly beautiful #RedSun on camp…

The smoke and dust has been brought here by the same strong southerly winds that have made the last few days a bit warmer than you'd usually expect.

The dust and smoke particles scatter blue light more than red light, in the same way as at sunset and sunrise. So the light that reaches us appears redder than usual (and since there's less of it, it is darker).

White clouds against an orange-grey sky & clearer sky at the edge as the sand/dust cloud passes.

Also, while the Californian wildfires have been a major public health hazard because of the smoke particulates in the air, that isn't the case here.

According to the Met Office, it's all higher up in the atmosphere, so shouldn't be a problem from your lungs' point of view.

Of course, if you DO want it to be a harbinger of doom, you could point out that the wildfires and hurricanes are supposed to get more common as the climate warms up.

I'm sure it'll all be fine.

“Go to the Winchester, have a pint and wait for all this to blow over” #yellowsky

Tom Chivers is a science writer for BuzzFeed and is based in London.

Contact Tom Chivers at

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