As we move into the beginnings of the rainy season, our sunsets are becoming more colorful. They remind me of the early Twix cereal commercials, the ones with the “silly rabbit” singing “Raspberry red, lemon yellow and orange orange”? As a child, I was drawn to those colorful Trix packages in the cereal aisle. But as an adult, I’m much more impressed by the fiery reds I see at twilight. And I love how those nuggets of lemon yellow and orange orange have magically transformed into blazing yellow and flaming orange.
Did you ever wonder how those innocuous-looking grey and white midday clouds transform at sunset into their igneous alter egos?
The folks at National Geographic did. They posted a story last month about “The “Science of Sunsets”. In that story, they wrote that “the colors you see depend on the light’s path before it got to you, how the object you are viewing reflects that light, and what your eyes are sensitive to.” Let’s discuss these factors one at a time.
1) Eye sensitivity. According to this earthscience website, “The Sun…emits radiation across most of the electromagnetic spectrum… from high-energy X-rays to ultra-long wavelength radio waves. But our eyes detect only those wavelengths of light that range between ~400 (violet) and ~700 (red) nanometers. It’s the equivalent of watching a Trix commercial on a black and white TV.
2) The light’s path. NatGeo says, “The two main molecules in air, oxygen and nitrogen, are very small compared to the wavelengths of the incoming sunlight—about a thousand times smaller. That means that they preferentially scatter the shortest wavelengths, which are the blues and purples.” The longer wavelenghs, the yellows, oranges, and reds, more readily pass through the atmosphere.
At sunset, sunlight travels at a tangent through the atmosphere, which means it covers a longer distance. This results in more scattering of blues and purples, while more yellows, oranges and reds get through. And it’s a good thing, too. Who wants to eat Smurf-colored cereal?
3) Reflecting the light. As meteorologist Stephen Corfidi writes, “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.” But in order to achieve a vivid color, the “cloud must be high enough to intercept ‘unadulterated’ sunlight”. That’s because the atmosphere contains a “boundary layer” near the surface, that contains dust and haze, which attenuates (reduces) the amount of light and mutes the color. It would be like pouring chocolate milk into a bowl of Trix.
The tag line in the old Trix commercials was “Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids.” But when it comes to our vivid fall sunsets, perhaps the tag line should be, “The best Trix are found at sunset.” I invite you to go outside take a look.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at email@example.com for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, November 6, 13, 20 & 27.
Saturday mornings, November 9 & 23.
2014 Placerita Canyon Wild Flower Calendar. Looking for a unique and local gift? For $10, the Docents and Volunteers at Placerita Canyon Nature Center are offering a calendar filled with original photos of local wild flowers. Best of all, your purchase will help support the fine work of the Placerita Canyon Nature Center. They are available at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center Gift Shop.
New trail maps available. If you’d like to explore a bit on your own, the City of Santa Clarita has a website with trail maps of our local open spaces.
There’s also a new website for bicycle riders.
Ask Dr. Norm: Do you have questions about the flora, fauna, animals, rocks, etc. in our Santa Clarita Valley? Here’s a place for you to ask your questions. Dr. Norman Herr, Ph.D., is a professor of science and computer education at California State University, Northridge.
Tell Us About Your Hike: Here’s a new website where you can post pictures, provide feedback and make suggestions about the City of Santa Clarita’s trails and open spaces.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on “The SCV Outdoor Report”, brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
Or check out our Facebook page – L.A. Mountains.
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Source: Santa Clarita News