Dazzling weather phenomenon that lights up the sky with all the colors of the rainbow

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The color of the sky may seem like just an everyday choice between blue or gray or a mixture of the two, but we have found that there have been rare natural phenomena that have turned the sky to dark shades of red, or a haze of yellow, or even an odd shade of what could best be described as “frog green”.

In fact, we’ve found examples that together cover all the colors of the rainbow!

RED: Not always happy sailors

When massive wildfires burn across the landscape, their billowing smoke not only degrades air quality, but can cast an ominous pall over the region.

The smoke-choked air is full of tiny particles of burning debris that create refraction of light in the clouds. Sunlight contains several wavelengths that include all colors of visible light. When all visible wavelengths combine, sunlight appears white. But particles in clouds… and plumes of smoke… can block some of the shorter wavelengths of blue and green light from shining, leaving the longer red wavelengths behind.

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Such was the case in these surreal videos of photographers trapped in thick clouds of smoke. The smoke particles erased all blues, greens and yellows, leaving the red light to survive.

ORANGE: Dust in the wind

That same physics are in play with those orange skies, but this time it’s dust and dirt.

Dust storms, or sometimes called “haboobs”, form when heavy rains fall from thunderstorms and create huge downdrafts that rush ahead of the storms, picking up sand and dust from the arid desert landscape along the way.

Instead, dust and sand allow orange wavelengths to pass, depending on cloud thickness and particle size.

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YELLOW: Nothing to sneeze at…or is it?

This nightmarish scene – at least for allergy sufferers – was courtesy of a “pollen storm” in North Carolina.

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These wind-whipped clouds of what photographer Jeremy Gilchrist called ‘Pollmageddon’ and ‘The Pollening’ turned the skies yellow in the spring of 2019 as the pines went wild in Durham.

GREEN: Kermit in a tornado?

No, your eyes still aren’t watery from the pollen photos in the previous section – the sky really took on that ridiculous shade of green in South Dakota last summer.

Much like the red hue of forest fires or the orange hue of dust, this too was caused by particles scattering certain wavelengths of sunlight into a cloud – except this time it was big hail !

Observers have often noticed the sky turning green or teal as heavy storms approach, and the large hailstones inside the clouds are thought to be just the right size to let the green light escape. and sometimes blue/teal.

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Hailstones are caused by strong updrafts within severe thunderstorms. These updrafts continually blow raindrops to the frozen upper parts of a thunderstorm, where they will turn into hailstone.

The frozen stone will begin to fall, collecting new raindrops as it descends until it meets these updrafts, and it will blow skyward, freezing this newly acquired water into another layer of ice. The process repeats and the hailstone grows larger until the stone weighs more than the updraft can support.

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A golf ball sized hailstone needs a 65mph vertical wind to form, while a grapefruit sized hailball will fall to the ground at a speed of around 100mph .

BLUE: blue sky during the day? Great. The night? Uh oh…

A powerful event has turned the skies neon blue over New York City.

Or make it an event without power.

A massive ConEdison transformer exploded at their factory in Queens in 2018, sending powerful electrical blasts into the sky and reflecting off the covered layer to bring a surreal blue that might have looked like the Ghostbusters Portal clock.

No one was hurt. Or whipped to alternate dimensions.

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PURPLE: A sunset that will literally blow your mind

For the final color of our rainbow (sorry, indigo), we look to the Gulf Coast and Southeast where, in recent years, the skies have turned purple from passing hurricanes.

The three examples we show here are in Florida with Hurricane Michael, Tropical Storm Eta, and Hurricane Dorian, but you don’t need a tropical system for purple skies.

These scenes are a combination of the light scatter we saw in the red, orange, and green examples above, but this time we mix in sunsets and thick clouds.

After the sun goes down and the colors of ‘sunset’ fade away, the atmosphere typically turns deep blue again in the waning sunlight – what photographers call ‘the blue hour’, according to the associate scientist Michael Kavulich of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. The lower clouds will also take on this blue tint.

But if there are still high clouds around, they can still “catch” reds and oranges from the sun just below the horizon. Mix the red lights from above with the “blue” clouds from below and you have a purple tint!

“These conditions of a thick layer of low cloud combined with high cloud can occur in all kinds of weather situations, so it’s not a phenomenon exclusive to hurricanes,” Kavulich told FOX Weather. “But hurricanes often come with this specific combination of thick low clouds and scattered high clouds, especially between the outer rain bands or even in the eye where you have little to no clouds. in the middle layers of the atmosphere.

ALL COLORS: Aurora

You don’t need sunlight to make the sky glow with color. The Northern and Southern Lights can put on a colorful display long after the sun has headed below the horizon.

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Bright auroras usually follow a few days after solar events known as coronal mass ejections or solar flares. Flares bring a barrage of electrons that interact with oxygen and nitrogen in the Earth’s magnetic field that surrounds our planet’s exterior.

When electrons hit oxygen and nitrogen molecules, they “spill some energy,” says Don Hampton, a researcher at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. “And then (the molecules) relax to the ground state. When they do that, they release some light.”

The colors of the light vary according to the type of gas fed.

Oxygen molecules emit a green or yellow glow when excited, or can sometimes emit a slight red tint, according to NASA. Meanwhile, nitrogen gives off blue hues when hit by solar energy.

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