Fireworks brighten the sky but dampen the view | Science News


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Fireworks brighten the sky but dampen the view

Big pyrotechnic celebrations can cut visibility by 25 percent

6:00am, December 18, 2015

EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY   Spectacular firework displays and other pyrotechnics release large amounts of soot into the air that dangerously reduces visibility, new research finds.

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Fireworks light up the night sky, but they also fill it with visibility-reducing soot, researchers warn.

Tracking visibility changes at 34 meteorological stations across the United Kingdom, atmospheric scientists from the University of Birmingham in England found that visibility dropped by around 25 percent each year on November’s Guy Fawkes Night before returning to normal a day or two later. The nighttime celebration is the country’s largest fireworks event. The fiery displays, including bonfires, triple the amount of black carbon in the air, the researchers discovered, reducing visibility and potentially increasing the risk of car crashes.

Similar celebrations, such as New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July, could pose similar risks, the researchers say. 


A. Singh, W.J. Bloss and F.D. Pope. Remember, remember the 5th of November; gunpowder, particles and smog. Weather. Vol. 70, November 2015, p. 320. doi: 10.1002/wea.2587.

Further Reading

M. Rosen. Black carbon fouls New York subway stations. Science News. Vol. 187, January 10, 2015, p. 5.

E. Wayman. Cool Idea. Science News. Vol. 184, October 5, 2013, p. 26.

D. Powell. Small efforts to reduce methane, soot could have big effect. Science News. Vol. 181, February 11, 2012, p. 12.

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