- Education and Science
Why Are Sunrises and Sunsets So Colorful?
Sunset on Dauphin Island, Alabama
Fascinating Sunrises and Sunsets
Do a web search and you will come up with around 4 million photos. People love sunrises and sunsets. They are fascinating and they change by the second. They are definitely more interesting if clouds are in the sky.
Beautiful Sunrises and Sunsets
What produces a beautifully colored sunrise or sunset?
Many sources say it is the particles or aerosols in the air scattering the sunlight. That is true, but according to a government article by Stephen F. Corfidi from the NOAA/NWS Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma; the particles in the air actually subdue the colors. They also reduce the amount of light which reaches the ground reducing the brilliance and intensity. Also since air circulation in the summer is more sluggish and there is more smog and haze in the air, late fall and winter tend to have brighter sunrises and sunsets. The main condition for a brightly colored sunrise or sunset is clean air. That is why places in the tropics like Hawaii or the Caribbean produce such fantastic sunrises and sunsets.
A Series of Photos of a Cancun, Mexico Sunrise
The sunrise below had some cool cloud formations which made watching this sunrise unfold so fascinating. As the sun rose higher in the sky, the colors began to intensify in the higher clouds, while the lower clouds remained in muted colors.
Clouds definitely add more interest to sunrises and sunsets. The clouds that are high enough to reflect sunlight that passes through clean air will be the ones with the most brilliant scarlets oranges and reds. The lower clouds residing in air with haze or smog will reflect more subdued colors such as pink or pale oranges and yellows. Some of the most beautiful sunrises or sunsets are the ones with solid areas of mid or high levels clouds with a cloud-free area near the horizon.
Sunsets in My Own Back Yard
Keep your cameras ready!
Since sunrises and sunsets vary greatly with air conditions and cloud formations, the color variety is endless. That is what drives our fascination and makes us wonder when the next great sunrise or sunset will appear.
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