Science behind ‘super fog’

Published: Oct. 25, 2023 at 8:31 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 25, 2023 at 11:50 AM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Fire trucks and emergency responders were on the scene after multiple vehicle crashes along a stretch of Interstate 55 in Louisiana Monday morning, after low visibility from “super fog” led to dangerous travel conditions west of New Orleans.

Multiple people were killed with dozens injured.

Super fog is a scientific term defined by the national weather service as fog that forms when a mixture of smoke and moisture released from damp, smoldering organic material such as brush, leaves and trees, mixes with cooler, nearly saturated air.

Similar to fog development here in the Quad Cities area, it commonly happens when the sky is clear and the wind is light, typically in the late night or early morning hours.

The moisture and/or smoke gets trapped in the lowest level of the atmosphere due to a temperature inversion a few thousand feet in the air, which is a layer of warmer air aloft, preventing air from lifting.

In Louisiana, the smoke came from wildfires in nearby marshes, after a summer of extreme heat and relentless drought.

The combination of wildfire smoke and fog can cause visibility to be reduced to 10 feet or less, leading to pileups, some of which can be deadly.

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