Have you seen the sunrises or sunsets this week? If not, they have been very colorful and vibrant. Meteorologist Tyler Sebree snapped a photo of the sunset over downtown South Bend on Monday, as well as a photo of the sunset seen from ABC 57 on Tuesday. Notice the common theme between both of the photos: incredible color. So, why is that? Is it a simple coincidence that it's winter and the sunsets were vibrant? Or, is it just random that we saw two straight days with wonderful sunsets? Believe it or not, it is all science!
A few variables that allow for the highly colorful and picturesque sunsets include the lack of pollution and haze during the winter months, as well as a better probability of seeing high-level clouds. The lack of pollution, pollen and haze particles means the sun's light can reach the clouds and Earth's surface unobstructed. As for high-level clouds like cirrus and altocumulus, they are seen more often in November, December, January, and February. When there are high-level clouds present around the time the sun rises and sets, more color is seen. High-level clouds are extremely cold and are made up of millions of tiny ice crystals. The sun's rays shine through those ice crystals, and the light is reflected to the ground in the form of spectacular orange, red and purple colors.
Lastly, the sun angle is lower during the winter months, which helps make sunsets and sunrises last longer than they do during the spring and summer. Since they last longer each evening, the sunsets have a longer time to materialize and show the vibrant colors that you see in the photos in this article.