I may have spent too much time staring at sunsets, but over this time I've developed a pretty good sense for when a sunset's really going to put on a show.
Varying types of clouds throughout the stratosphere is a must, and a breezy day usually helps with this. Most often, the perfect mix happens towards the tail end of a weather front.
Last Thursday was one of those days. I got a feeling it would be a good one early in the day, and as afternoon rolled around I was sure of it. But then I got to thinking... I've figured out through observation of the weather when a beautiful sunset will happen, but what makes the colors so vivid, so unique, and so playful within the cloud variations?
So I did a little searching around and learned about a phenomenon called scattering. Which can be summed up as the relationship between air molecules and the wavelength of the light from the sun. When the sun is overhead, the wavelengths of light are shorter, so when we look at the sky we see the colors that have shorter wavelengths, like blue and violet. Later in the day as the sun sets, the light wavelengths from the sun become longer, so the shorter blue and violet colors are scattered from our view, leaving colors with longer wavelengths, like orange, yellow, pink and red. The same is true of sunrises.
I feel like this time of year the sunsets are particularly beautiful, as we have more storms and fronts moving through, and since the sun travels at a lower angle anyway. Yet as different at winter sunsets may be, one thing rings true for all of them, they disappear just as quickly as they arrive. A day's worth of anticipation, gone in just a few brief moments.
Well worth it in my opinion...
* Last time in Nature: Snow Fun