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Date: 2000-2001


Question:
Are the colors of a sunset dependent on the tempature? What makes the colors of the sunset?


Replies:
The colors of the sunset are not dependent on temperature, except in the case of a low enough temperature to produce fog or an enhanced haze (higher humidity combined with air pollution). The colors are a consequence of preferential scattering of different wavelengths of sunlight by the particles and water vapor in the air. A large amount of particles tend to scatter out blue light, giving us a pink to red sunset. The red sunset can be washed out to whitish by heavy haze or high relative humidity, which will scatter all wavelengths more equally; however, the sun itself will still appear to be reddish-orange. When there is very dry, clean air, such as with an Arctic high pressure system, the sky near the horizon will stay nearly blue, with the sun being brilliant orange.

David Cook
meteorologist at Argonne Nat. Lab.


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