This is the time of year that nature photographers — or anyone willing to be enchanted — love best. All they have to do is look west when the sun is bringing down the curtain on a winter’s day.
The spectacular sunsets that come almost every waning afternoon are caused by several elements conspiring to leave us dumbstruck for the few fleeting minutes the drama is before us.
Looking for specific answers, The Los Angeles Times journalist Mary Forgione recently asked Stephen LaDochy, a professor of meteorology and climatology at Cal State Los Angeles, how the startling effects are produced. “It’s different types of scattering, reflection and refraction of light,” the professor said, which Ms. Forgione translated as, “Light is made up of different colors, each with its own range of wavelengths. Blue and green light waves are shorter, which means they bounce and scatter more easily. At sunset, those colors get filtered out, leaving longer wavelengths of reds and oranges that can make your heart melt.”
Also, in winter, the late afternoon light show is more intense, vivid and awe-inspiring because there are lower rates of humidity than other times of year, and the air is cleaner — even more so with fewer cars on the road during the pandemic — so there are less particulates in the air to make the horizon hazy and gooey.
Adding to that, these days the earth is closer to the sun, and, as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist Stephen Corfidi reported, “the angle the sun takes setting makes sunset colors last a bit longer.”
Now you know. But you don’t have to be told that these days the sunsets are gifts, offering us, as the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti said, “a rebirth of wonder.”