Ahh beautiful sunsets, we all love them! They are romantic and inspire love songs, paintings and poems. What makes some sunsets more spectactular than others? We’ve all probably heard that pollution and or dust is responsible for beautiful sunsets. Not a pretty thought right? However the truth is that tropospheric aerosols (tiny liquid and solid particles) — especially when present in abundance — do not enhance sky colors — they subdue them. Clean air is, in fact, the main ingredient common to brightly colored sunrises and sunsets. Oh good!
Because air circulation is more sluggish during the summer and because the formation of smog and haze proceed most rapidly at that time of year, late fall and winter are the most favored times for sunset-viewing over most of the United States. Pollution climatology also largely explains why the deserts and tropics are noted for their twilight hues: air pollution in these regions is, by comparison, minimal. Although the twilight sky is beautiful when it is devoid of clouds, the most memorable sunsets tend to be those with at least a few clouds. Clouds catch the last red-orange rays of the setting sun and the first light of the dawn. But certain types of clouds are more closely associated with eye-catching sunsets than others. To produce vivid sunset colors, a cloud must be high enough to intercept light that has not lost color by passing through the atmospheric boundary layer. This explains why spectacular shades of scarlet, orange and red often grace cirrus and altocumulus layers, but only rarely low clouds such as stratus or stratocumulus. When low clouds do take on vivid hues as they often do over the open ocean in the tropics, it is a clue that the lower atmosphere is very clean and therefore more transparent than usual. Some of the most beautiful sunsets feature solid decks of middle or high clouds that cover the entire sky except for a narrow clear strip near the horizon. Passing jet streams mark zones of transition between west-to-east moving regions of atmospheric ascent (cloud cover) and descent (clear skies). When viewed at sunrise, a sky of this type implies that the weather is likely to deteriorate as the mid- and upper-level moisture continues eastward. Hence the saying “Red sky at night, traveler’s delight; Red sky in morning, traveler take warning.”
And of course your location has something to add or subtract from your sunset view; buildings, hills, trees etc can all hide the sunset! I’m sure if you are like me you can never look at too many beautiful sunsets. My cousin, Bill Emery, captures magical sunsets up in Michigan and thankfully shares them with me. I’m going to share them with you here. Bill also supplied the beautiful sunset on the heading of these website pages. (Bill’s photography speaks for itself!) Take a deep breath, relax and share these sunsets with someone special. And plan where you are going to catch your next romantic sunset with your loved one whether it is at dinner, on a cruise, road trip, or fun camping trip. Let your imaginations go wild and drift off into the sunset together. Oh, and don’t forget the Champagne!