I don't know about you, but I have seen some unbelievably vibrant sunrises and sunsets this past month. My Facebook and Twitter pages have been inundated with these spectacularly colorful skies. Check out a few of them here:
- Lori Martin Photography
- Lauren Bevington - Fairfax, VA
- Tosin Fakile
So what causes these brilliant colors in the morning and evening sky? It all has to do with the low sun angle and how much atmosphere sunlight has to pass through. A phenomenon called 'scattering' pretty much sums up the colors we see in the sky.
The reason the sky is blue is because of Rayleigh scattering. See the graphic below.
- Sky and Telescope
Notice the colors on the left (blue and violet) have a much higher percent of scattering compared to orange and red colors. Sunlight is scattered among the molecules (oxygen, nitrogen, water vapor) in the air. Since these molecules are very small, they scatter the shortest wavelength of blue. This is why the sky is blue.
- University of Wisconsin, Madison.
At sunrise and sunset, the sun is lower in the sky and has to pass through more of the Earth's atmosphere (see image above). If the path is long enough, the blue and violet light scatters out of sight allowing the longer wavelength colors to reach our line of sight. This is why we see the rich reds, oranges, yellow, and pink hues during sunrise and sunset.
- Eileen Whelan
Fall and winter tend to have the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets because of the lower sun angle. Also, much drier, less polluted air is overhead which allows more colors of the spectrum to make it to our eyes.
You've probably noticed that some of the most magnificent sunrises and sunsets have some clouds present. Mid and high level clouds act to accentuate or enhance the colors. Clouds also contain water molecules that further the scattering process.
- Jen Johnson
The StormWatch7 weather teams welcomes you to upload your sunrise and sunset photos to our Facebook page. You can also tweet your photos or email them to us! We love to share your photographs via social media and television.
Enjoy nature's art in the sky over the next few months!