What creates Arizona's stunning sunrises and sunsets?

Posted: Updated:
Arizona is known for some pretty incredible sunsets and sunrises year round. (Source: Lisa Baker, Karen Olivera, Lorri Bowe) Arizona is known for some pretty incredible sunsets and sunrises year round. (Source: Lisa Baker, Karen Olivera, Lorri Bowe)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

I am a huge sky-gazer. Shocking, right?

In full disclosure, my iPhone albums have more photos of Arizona's clouds, storms, sunsets and sunrises than anything else. Frankly, it's hard not to snap at least one photo a day when we arguably have some of the most jaw-dropping views in the world.

[SLIDESHOW: Best of Arizona's 2017 monsoon]

But what exactly creates a gorgeous pallet of color in the sky during our sunrises and sunsets?

[App users click/tap here to view photo]

CLOUDS

This is probably one of the biggest factors. Especially over the past week, we have been inundated with sunrises showcasing vibrant reds, pinks, purples, oranges and golds. We’ve also had a lot of clouds hanging around each morning.

To get those stunner sunrises and sunsets, high and mid level clouds are the best to reflect and redirect the sunlight into these shades. During the monsoon, isolated thunderheads can reach heights of 20,000 to 40,000 feet, which will also do a great job of scattering sunlight and showcasing color.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Monsoon 2017]

On the flip-side, low clouds, overcast skies or rainy conditions will create those not-so-memorable sunrises or sunsets.

The thickness of clouds also plays a role. Too thick and too full of a cloud deck won’t scatter sunlight as well, but thin, wispy clouds will.

Another factor of color vibrancy is the ratio of cloud cover to clearness that is actually overhead. When you look at a forecast, or when you’re looking outside before sunset, anywhere from 30 to 70 percent cloud cover is ideal for colors to show through.

[App users click/tap here to view photo]

HUMIDITY, DUST, SMOKE

The more “stuff” you have in the lower and middle atmosphere, which can include dust particles, wildfire smoke and water droplets in the form of higher humidity, the less depth you’ll have to your sunsets and sunrises. With that said, you’ll still have a good opportunity to see hues of pinks, purples and golds refracted from the sunlight, they’ll just be more so softened and blended.

[App users click here to view photo]

WIND

A change in wind direction can also create patterns to clouds which will give those sunsets and sunrises more of an eye-candy appeal with ripples and streaks. In addition, winds from a passing weather front before sunset or before sunrise will clear out the air in the lower atmosphere, and allow more vivid colors to be seen.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Weather blog]

MOUNTAINS

Lastly, mountain ranges will also help reflect colors into the sky. Pinks, purples and golds can be pretty vibrant at sunrise and sunset from places like Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak.

A lot of this information came from my own observations and research, but for other helpful resources on predicting pretty sunrises and sunsets, check out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)'s website or go to sunsetwx.com.

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


  • Weather BlogMore>>

  • The Rain in Spain

    The Rain in Spain

    The Rain in Spain

    Sunday, October 22 2017 1:10 AM EDT2017-10-22 05:10:10 GMT
    Cathedral BarcelonaCathedral Barcelona

    Traveling the world has been a goal of mine since I was a little girl.

    So in my 20s, I started my international adventures in Italy and every few years I pick a new place to go.

    More >

    Traveling the world has been a goal of mine since I was a little girl.

    So in my 20s, I started my international adventures in Italy and every few years I pick a new place to go.

    More >
  • Twisters in Arizona?!

    Twisters in Arizona?!

    Wednesday, October 18 2017 7:54 AM EDT2017-10-18 11:54:28 GMT

    October has been off to a unseasonably warm and quiet start this year.  Most years, it’s a pretty uneventful month when it comes to stormy weather in our state.  October 2010 was a big exception, when we saw the worst tornado outbreak in state history.   

    More >

    October has been off to a unseasonably warm and quiet start this year.  Most years, it’s a pretty uneventful month when it comes to stormy weather in our state.  October 2010 was a big exception, when we saw the worst tornado outbreak in state history.   

    More >
  • Hurricane Ophelia is a record setter

    Hurricane Ophelia is a record setter

    Tuesday, October 17 2017 8:48 PM EDT2017-10-18 00:48:11 GMT
    Damage from Ophelia in Cork, Ireland (AP)Damage from Ophelia in Cork, Ireland (AP)

    Hurricane Ophelia is not a hurricane anymore, but winds are still pelting the British Isles. The impacts of this storm have been widespread.

    More >

    Hurricane Ophelia is not a hurricane anymore, but winds are still pelting the British Isles. The impacts of this storm have been widespread.

    More >