Why Hawaiian Sunsets Are So Beautiful

The Quality of Light – “Warmth”

Hawaiian sunsets are spectacular. They draw tourists to the islands from around the world – not only because of the stunning and vibrant colors but because Hawaii is also one of the best places to view the green flash. The vivid colors result from an ideal collection of conditions that are more frequently found in Hawaii when compared to most other places.

The Sunsets Change Colors

During the day, the sky appears blue as a result of dust, water vapor, and other gases in the atmosphere scattering blue and some violet lightwaves. The scattering of blue lightwaves is ten times more intense than the scattering of red lightwaves. When the sun is rising or setting, sunlight passes through a much larger column of the atmosphere to reach our eyes, causing more scattering. According to Science Notes, “The lower the sun is on the horizon, the steeper the angle, and the more orange, pink, and red you see.”

Hawaiian Sunsets Are Special

All sunrises and sunsets have the potential to be colorful, but Hawaii gets an added boost:

  • Volcanic dust high in the atmosphere aids scattering. On the Big Island of Hawaii, Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983. That’s a lot of volcanic dust and vog (volcanic smog or haze)! The trade winds push the dust across the island from East to West, so sunset is even more likely to be colorful than sunrise.
  • Hawaii also gets help from geography. The islands are located 20° north of the equator and 155° west of the Prime Meridian in the Northern Hemisphere. The position gives the islands balmy temperatures year-round, which means there’s enough heat to put a lot of water vapor into the air. The humidity aids scattering, intensifying colors.
  • The sun sinks into the Pacific Ocean, far from any land mass that could disturb the atmosphere or break the horizon line. The angle of a sunset over water is as good as it can get.

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