1 of 2 | Cirrus clouds occur very high in the atmosphere and are made up of ice crystals. When ice crystals from these clouds are present at sunrise or sunset, the sky can appear in vivid reds or oranges, such as those seen above Central Florida on Wednesday evening (pictured) after Hurricane Idalia was far to the north over Georgia and South Carolina. Photo by UPI staff
Vivid sunset photos were aplenty on social media on Wednesday evening across parts of the mid-Atlantic, and sunrise photos filled social media for those who live in the Northeast on Thursday morning.
Even though Idalia was hundreds of miles away, the storm helped to set the scene for these photo opportunities.
The National Weather Service office in Mount Holly, N.J., shared a series of striking orange and red sunset photos on Wednesday evening, noting, “The outer cirrus shields of tropical cyclones have a knack at producing good sunsets.”
Likewise, a sunset photo with bright oranges to purple was shared by the NWS Baltimore-Washington office with a radar visible in the foreground.
“Cirrus cloud shields on the edge of tropical storms are responsible for the enhanced sunsets,” AccuWeather Social Media Producer and Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell explained on Wednesday evening.
A satellite image shows Idalia spinning over eastern South Carolina on Wednesday evening, Aug. 30, 2023. A shield of high cirrus clouds can be seen over the mid-Atlantic.
Early risers in the New York City area were treated to a beautiful sunrise on Thursday morning with orange, pink and purple clouds appearing over the world-famous skyline.
The colorful sight would not have happened if it was not for Tropical Storm Idalia, which was spinning hundreds of miles south of the Big Apple. High clouds on the northern fringe of the storm spread across the region during the morning before the sky cleared out in the afternoon.
A camera on the Statue of Liberty operated by EarthCam snapped a photo of the sunrise, which showed patchy clouds in various colors sprawled out over the entire New York City area.
Cirrus clouds occur very high in the atmosphere and are made up of ice crystals. When ice crystals from cirrus clouds are present at sunrise or sunset, the sky can appear in vivid reds or oranges when the sun is nearby in the sky.
The colors that are visible to the naked eye are related to how the sun’s light, or wavelengths, are scattered in the atmosphere. Sunlight contains all the colors of the rainbow. As the sunlight passes through the Earth’s atmosphere, particles and molecules in the air reflect specific wavelengths.
The wavelengths that aren’t reflected are the colors visible in the sky. On a clear weather day, shorter wavelengths like green, blue and purple aren’t reflected, which makes the sky appear blue during the day.
“The familiar oranges and reds of the sky occurring at sunrise or sunset are due to the absence of higher-frequency blues and violets,” the National Science Teaching Foundation explained on its site. “When the sun is close to the horizon, light that grazes Earth’s surface is mainly lower-frequency reds and oranges that survive scattering. Hence the reddish-orange colors of sunrises and sunsets.”