Location: Oregon Badlands Wilderness, looking north | Photographer: Greg Burke
Imagine a sunset or sunrise without the clouds! One of the most important things for cloudwatchers to remember is that pure sunlight is white but is composed of “all the colors of the rainbow.” The water molecules and ice crystals in clouds do a truly spectacular job at scattering that sunlight so that we see its component colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet—colors you learn in grade school by the acronym ROY G. BIV).
When the sun angle is low in the sky, the sun’s longest wavelengths are most successful at passing through the lower portion of our atmosphere and an abundance of small particles—dust, haze, pollen, smoke, pollutants, for instance. When these “warrior wavelengths” as I like to call them reach the clouds—high cirrus clouds in this photo—those longer red, orange, and yellow wavelengths are reflected to our eyes and we have sky bling in the Badlands.