What makes our mountains smoke?

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What Makes Our Mountains Smoke?

What makes our mountains smoke? The story I was told growing up was: when daddy rabbit came home from work, he would bring a load of wood in and start the oven. Mama rabbit would mix up dough while he was preparing the oven. Once the oven was the right temperature, mama rabbit would put the bread in the oven to bake so they would have warm bread for supper. The smoke is from the oven.

What really makes the Smokies smoke? According to Visit My Smokies, the Cherokee Indians considered them scared and called them “Shaconage”(Sha-Kon-O-Hey): land of blue smoke. The smoke is really fog created from VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These are completely natural when released from plants. In fact, pine trees releasing this vapor is what gives pine trees their smells. 

What causes them to appear blue? When they release the VOC, the molecules scatter the blue light from the sky. The Smokies have the perfect conditions for the beautiful blue smokey color. 

You can see this phenomenon in the mountains of East Tennessee, including the mountains surrounding Cherokee Lake.