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Why Are Sunrises and Sunsets So Colorful?

Updated on November 29, 2010

Sunset on Dauphin Island, Alabama

Author photo.
Author photo.

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.


Photo 1.  Author photo.
Photo 1. Author photo.
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Photo 2. Author photo.
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Photo 3. Author photo.
Photo 4.  Author photo.
Photo 4. Author photo.


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

Author photo.
Author photo.
Author photo.  Closer look at the golden clouds.
Author photo. Closer look at the golden clouds.
Author photo.
Author photo.
Author photo.
Author photo.

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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    • profile image

      gepeTooRs 17 months ago

      Wheoevr edits and publishes these articles really knows what they’re doing.

    • Rose Kolowinski profile image

      Rose Kolowinski 6 years ago

      Thank you! And yes, linking up is a great idea!

    • jill of alltrades profile image

      jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines

      What a beautiful hub! I love all your photos Rose.

      I also have a sunset/sunrise hub "What Color is Your Sunset". Would you like to link up?

      Voted up and beautiful!

    • Rose Kolowinski profile image

      Rose Kolowinski 7 years ago

      Beautiful saying! Thank you for reading and commenting, GmaGoldie.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      One of my favorite sayings:

      Every sun rise is a message from God. Every sun set, his signature.


    • Rose Kolowinski profile image

      Rose Kolowinski 7 years ago

      Thanks Traqqer! Appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

    • Traqqer profile image

      Traqqer 7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Some really nice sunset pics!

    • Rose Kolowinski profile image

      Rose Kolowinski 7 years ago

      I always think of that saying too when I see a red sky! Thanks for reading and commenting, suziecat7.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Made me think of the saying "Red sky in the morning brings sailors warning. Red sky at night, sailor's delight." Great photos - thanks.