To marvel at a beautiful sunset is sure to make anyone’s day and for me the sunsets on Stuart Lake in Fort St. James couldn’t be more stunning to witness.
But what makes sunsets more beautiful than others and why do some parts of the world enjoy more memorable ones?
According to Stephen F. Corfidi from the NOAA/NWS Storm Prediction Centre, it is often written that natural and manmade dust and pollution cause colourful sunrises and sunsets.
And clean air, in fact, is the main ingredient common to a brightly coloured sunrise or sunset.
Corfidi says that airborne pollutants do however do more than soften sky colours. They also enhance the attenuation of both direct and scattered light, especially when the sun is low in the sky.
This, Corfidi says, reduces the total amount of light that reaches the ground, robbing sunrises and sunsets of their brilliance and intensity.
Clouds also play a significant role.
“Although the twilight sky can certainly inspire awe 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 like a theatre screen and reflect this light to the ground,” Corfidi says.
“To produce vivid sunset colours, a cloud must be high enough to intercept “unadulterated” sunlight…ie., light that has not suffered attenuation and/or colour loss by passing through the atmospheric boundary layer.”
This, in Cofidi’s view, largely explains why spectacular shades of scarlet, orange and red most often grace cirrus and altocumulus layers, but only rarely 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.
So, with various ingredients, whatever they may be, one can only marvel when an opportunity arises to gaze at a colorful sunset over the peaceful waters of Stuart Lake.
The bright reds and oranges fade as the sun dips behind the horizon.
Another magical moment of beauty and warmth in Fort St. James.