Miami doesn’t have mountains, but man does it have a killer sky. In the past few weeks our sunsets have been out of control, crazy beautiful.
We asked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) what determines whether a sunset is going to be “meh” or “oh my god.” Here’s the “Sunsets for dummies” explanation:
Clean air is the main ingredient
You might have heard that pollution is the real cause of our gorgeous sunsets, but if that were true then New York, Los Angeles, London, and Mexico City would probs have the most beautiful skies ever. But they don’t. That’s because when there’s a ton of pollution, it dulls the sky’s colors instead of enhancing them. Myth busted.
The colors are made by a scattering of light
Here’s how it works. There are a bunch of tiny air molecules in the sky. When the sunlight hits these air molecules, it bounces off of them and scatters. That’s why the sky is blue. Blue light waves are shorter than any other ones so they get hit more by air molecules and scatter more.
Imagine a beam of white light being full of all five of these waves. As the sun gets lower, it’s going through more of the atmosphere, so those blue waves that are easy targets for air molecules are getting scattered and re-scattered, and knocked out of the way. That makes the reds, oranges, and yellows easier to get hit and scattered, and easier to see for us.
Those evening thunderstorms are key
The late afternoon and early evening thunderstorms create nice cloud debris that help scatter the light, creating brilliant varied hues. But it also creates patterns where the sun’s rays are peeking out of the clouds. Clouds can linger anywhere from 15 minutes to hours after the storm, depending on the day and type of storm, so there’s no real way to approximate how soon after a storm a beautiful sunset will follow. But if there are some clouds in the sky, it’ll be a beaut, that’s for sure.
Fall and winter are the best times to see them
Walking around Miami in the summer, we know that the air circulation is not happening. That’s why summer sunsets don’t compare to the fall or winter ones. Fall officially started on Sept. 22, but the day just before that, Miami was hit with one of the most beautiful sunsets we’ve seen in awhile. Social media was going nuts over it. Part of that is because the fall brings more air circulation, and more scattering of the light.