Blazing red, soft pink, golden and glowing sunsets have filled Bay Area skies recently, and the factors that produced them — high pressure, light winds and moisture high in the sky — are likely to continue for the next few days if not longer, according to a National Weather Service meteorologist.
“First all, you have high pressure which causes any particles, such as pollution suspended in the air, to sink closer to the surface,” Jeff Lorber, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Saturday. This helps create those vivid colors because of the way the particles bend the rays of sunlight, Lorber said. “High-pressure” refers to air from higher in the atmosphere sinking down.
Also, Bay Area winds have been lighter than usual. Stronger winds help push the particles further inland. Because the winds have been light, the particles in the atmosphere aren’t moving around as much. This creates better conditions for the bending, or refraction, of the sun’s rays, according to Lorber.
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“Also, we have had upper-level moisture that has been coming in from the south, and the way the sun’s rays are bent by the water droplets in the sky creates these interesting color palettes in the sky,” Lorber said.
When the particles are that high, they are ice particles or ice droplets, and ice can magnify the intensity of color, the meteorologist said.
It’s likely that those beautiful sunsets will continue, at least for a while, Lorber said. “We’re not seeing a major change in the pattern.”