Why winter sunsets are particularly vibrant: meteorologist's explanation
Summer sunsets can be beautiful. The expert explains that the colors during an autumn or winter sunset are invariably better — and, as it turned out, there is science to support this opinion.
The meteorologist adds that pink and red shades of sunset, swirling with the clouds, create a cosmic cocktail. Meteorologist and weather expert Daniel Noyes explains what the colors in the sky mean and how to explain this fascinating scientific phenomenon. This was reported by wbur.org.
Although all the colors of the rainbow exist in sunlight, the color you see when you look up at the sky is determined by a physical process called Rayleigh scattering. The process describes what happens to waves of sunlight when they arrive at us. As they travel through the atmosphere, they are met by molecules such as nitrogen and oxygen and small particles that reflect the rays of light, causing them to scatter across the sky.
As Noyes explained, "Every color has its wavelength. This wavelength determines how far a color has to travel before our eyes recognize it. Blue and violet light is reflected by elements in our atmosphere, which is why we see blue during the day. But at sunset, when we turn away from the sun, the light has to travel further - through more of the atmosphere - to reach our eyes.
"More atmosphere means more molecules that scatter violet and blue away from your eyes, leaving other colors like yellow, orange, and red," the meteorologist adds.
Daniel Noyes also emphasizes that when it is cooler and less humid outside, there is less water vapor in the air. Then the number of particles in the air leads to less light scattering. In turn, colors can look bolder.
"A storm can create a beautiful sunset. For example, when a northern Easter approaches, cirrus clouds often appear long before the storm itself. Made of ice crystals, these clouds certainly decorate the sky and create extremely vivid images of the sunset," said Noyes.
In addition, the Earth also rotates closer to the sun in winter, and the sun sets at a sharper angle. "This makes the colors of the sunset last a little longer than in the summer months," Noyes said. This means that the winter sunset stays on the horizon, giving us more time to enjoy it.