Winter sunsets really are more colorful. Here’s why.

by Mike Laan

We at Visit Ventura share a lot of photos of brilliant vibrant sunsets and every so often, someone asks, “Why do sunsets look different in winter?” “Why are winter sunsets so colorful?” or “Why are sunsets different in the winter time?”

It comes down to visible light and angle of the light coming from the sun at this time of the year. Light not only interacts with particles in the air but is altered by it. The video below is an excellent rundown of what wavelengths are visible and why.

Photo by Sunny Oberto

Once you understand these wavelengths we can move on to the light coming from the sun at sunset and sunrise. This light is coming from much further away and has much more particles to pass through . Red and orange have much longer wavelengths compared to blue, making it easier for this light to travel that long distance without being scattered. This is then amplified by how slow the air is moving during winter than it is in the summer. According to the NOAAair circulation is more sluggish during the summer, and because the photochemical reactions which result in the formation of smog and haze proceed most rapidly at that time of the year, late fall and winter are the most favored times for sunrise and sunset viewing over most of the United States.

Simply put, Ventura has colorful and vivid winter sunsets because of the distance light travels from the sun to our pristine coast. So next time you’re walking on the beach in that golden hour before the sun sets, you’ll now know why those colors are so vibrant. If you happen to capture one of those magical shots be sure to tag #visitventura; we love to share them.

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