RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – You’ve seen them. After oohing and aahing, you’ve taken pictures and shared them with us. And we can’t get enough of them! Sunrises and sunsets are turning the clouds into stunning red-orange hues.
So why has this been happening? When the Sun’s angle is low on the horizon (at sunrise and sunset), the rays hit the underbelly of high clouds, like cirrus and cirrostratus clouds (which we’ve had over us this week at 20,000 feet and higher). Those high clouds are made of ice crystals, which act like prisms, refracting the sunlight back to our eyes. The colors that make it back to our eyes are longer-wave hues (the golds, oranges and reds). The other colors are scattered off of atmospheric particles and dust before they can reach us.
If you’re thinking of the saying, “Red sky in morning, sailor take warning,” you’re not off base. The saying comes from the fact that as storm systems approach (usually from the west in the U.S. as storms track west to east across the country), we usually see the high, thin cirrus clouds first. Those clouds can be a sign of a storm coming soon. When sailors would see at first light a red sky, that meant they were near a storm system, and should batten down the hatches!