Here’s why smoke lingers long after the fireworks are over

Long-lasting smoke from evening fireworks is due to the weather

Ford Fireworks (file) (WDIV)

ORLANDO, Fla. – You may have noticed after seeing fireworks displays late in the evening (or setting off your own) that the smoke just seems to sit there long after the show’s over.

There is a reason for that and it all has to do with the temperature at different levels of our atmosphere. During the day, temperature decreases with height in our atmosphere as the sun heats the ground and the ground heats the air around it.

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This process keeps the atmosphere well mixed and doesn’t let things like smoke settle in once place. The wind is generally stronger during the afternoon as well to help move things along.

Once we lose daytime heating in the evening, the warmth generated during the day begins to radiate back into space. The ground cools first, allowing the atmosphere just above the surface to be warmer than the ground.

This is known as a temperature inversion.

The warm sliver of air above the surface, known as a temperature inversion helps to trap the air and anything in it close to the surface during the evening.

That sliver of warm air just above the surface acts as a lid and prevents anything beneath it from efficiently clearing out. Inversions are strongest when skies are clear and winds are calm, as temperatures can efficiently radiate away from the ground.

Smoke trapped by Inversion

The next time you see smoke from fireworks, or fog for that matter clinging to the ground or just above it, know that it’s an invisible lid known as a temperature inversion at work.


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About the Author:

Jonathan Kegges joined the News 6 team in June 2019 as the Weekend Morning Meteorologist. Jonathan comes from Roanoke, Virginia where he covered three EF-3 tornadoes and deadly flooding brought on by Hurricanes Florence and Michael.