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.


  • Arizona's Family Weather BlogMore>>

  • Earliest mention of monsoon in Arizona

    Earliest mention of monsoon in Arizona

    Wednesday, July 11 2018 9:29 AM EDT2018-07-11 13:29:04 GMT
    The Arizona monsoon probably got its name back in the late 40s. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)The Arizona monsoon probably got its name back in the late 40s. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    The first mention of the monsoon in Arizona occurred in the 1940s.

    More >

    The first mention of the monsoon in Arizona occurred in the 1940s.

    More >
  • Fourth of July ushers in weather pattern change

    Fourth of July ushers in weather pattern change

    Tuesday, July 3 2018 2:55 PM EDT2018-07-03 18:55:53 GMT

    The Fourth of July is typically a hot and dry holiday in Arizona.  And while that will be the case this year, a big weather change is headed our way later this week. 

    More >

    The Fourth of July is typically a hot and dry holiday in Arizona.  And while that will be the case this year, a big weather change is headed our way later this week. 

    More >
  • Full moon alert: Saturn and strawberry moon to brighten the night sky

    Full moon alert: Saturn and strawberry moon to brighten the night sky

    Thursday, June 28 2018 8:51 AM EDT2018-06-28 12:51:38 GMT
    (Source: National Weather Service)(Source: National Weather Service)
    (Source: National Weather Service)(Source: National Weather Service)

    Wednesday will be a great night for stargazers. We will have a full moon and a great view of Saturn. Saturn will be closest to the Earth on Wednesday, making it a great opportunity to view and see the planet in detail.   

    More >

    Wednesday will be a great night for stargazers. We will have a full moon and a great view of Saturn. Saturn will be closest to the Earth on Wednesday, making it a great opportunity to view and see the planet in detail.   

    More >
  • Featured VideoMore>>

  • Police: Body camera footage shows 'bravery' of officer during Las Vegas shooting

    Police: Body camera footage shows 'bravery' of officer during Las Vegas shooting

    Tuesday, July 17 2018 4:52 PM EDT2018-07-17 20:52:10 GMT
    Body camera footage showed an officer exchanging gunfire with the suspects on July 11, 2018. (Source: LVMPD)Body camera footage showed an officer exchanging gunfire with the suspects on July 11, 2018. (Source: LVMPD)

    Las Vegas Metro police released body camera footage from a deadly officer-involved shooting that "paint a picture the of dangers these officers dealt with that day."  

    More >

    Las Vegas Metro police released body camera footage from a deadly officer-involved shooting that "paint a picture the of dangers these officers dealt with that day."  

    More >
  • Hundreds of dead fish stink up Maricopa neighborhood

    Hundreds of dead fish stink up Maricopa neighborhood

    Tuesday, July 17 2018 4:46 PM EDT2018-07-17 20:46:24 GMT
    Hundreds of fish showed up dead at a man-made lake in a Maricopa neighborhood. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)Hundreds of fish showed up dead at a man-made lake in a Maricopa neighborhood. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
    Hundreds of fish showed up dead at a man-made lake in a Maricopa neighborhood. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)Hundreds of fish showed up dead at a man-made lake in a Maricopa neighborhood. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    "The whole lake was carpeted with fish," Tod Antell said.

    More >

    "The whole lake was carpeted with fish," Tod Antell said.

    More >
  • Avondale couple not happy going solar

    Avondale couple not happy going solar

    Tuesday, July 17 2018 4:46 PM EDT2018-07-17 20:46:11 GMT
    The Chavez family say they feel like they were misled. (Source: 3TV)The Chavez family say they feel like they were misled. (Source: 3TV)
    The Chavez family say they feel like they were misled. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)The Chavez family say they feel like they were misled. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    An Avondale couple says they were lied to about the benefits of going solar so they called 3 On Your Side to get out of the contract.

    More >

    An Avondale couple says they were lied to about the benefits of going solar so they called 3 On Your Side to get out of the contract.

    More >