Multiple blue and green flashes

Multiple Blue and Green Flashes: A Spectacular Phenomenon of Atmospheric Optics

Atmospheric optics never fails to amaze us with its stunning displays of light and color. One such captivating phenomenon is the occurrence of multiple blue and green flashes during sunsets. These flashes, which add a touch of magic to the sky, have been observed in various coastal regions around the world. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of these flashes and explore the conditions that give rise to this mesmerizing spectacle.

The Perfect Conditions for Multiple Blue and Green Flashes

Coastal California, with its unique geographical features, often provides the ideal setting for these extraordinary flashes. Here, the interaction between different air masses creates an environment conducive to their occurrence. Offshore, the cold California Ocean Current chills the air near the sea surface. Above this layer, warm and dry air from Utah and Nevada, propelled by high-pressure systems, creates strong temperature inversions. These inversions play a crucial role in generating miraged sunsets and the subsequent flashes.

Unveiling the Complexity of Atmospheric Temperature Profiles

To better understand the intricacies of multiple blue and green flashes, let's examine the atmospheric temperature profile during a sunset captured by photographer Lyudmila Zinkova off the coast of San Francisco. Her images reveal a complex temperature profile characterized by several inversion layers. These layers are clearly visible as the sun descends, creating a captivating interplay of light and atmospheric conditions.

The Dance of Light: Simultaneous Multiple Flashes

As the sun makes its descent towards the horizon, the stage is set for a captivating performance of light. During Lyudmila Zinkova's sunset sequence, simultaneous multiple flashes occurred, painting the sky with an ethereal glow. These flashes, resulting from the bending and distortion of light, create a mesmerizing display that enchants onlookers. The exact mechanisms behind these flashes are still the subject of scientific investigation, but their beauty is undeniable.

The Enigmatic Blue Flash: A Moment of Intense Brilliance

Among the multiple flashes, a single blue flash stood out in its intensity. This brief burst of blue light adds an extra touch of enchantment to the spectacle. The blue flash is thought to occur due to the selective scattering of shorter wavelengths of light, resulting in a momentary brilliance that captivates the observer. Its appearance amidst the sea of colors adds a mysterious allure to the overall experience.

Green Flashes: A Verdant Symphony in the Sky

Following the blue flash, several green flashes grace the horizon, further enhancing the magical ambiance. These flashes occur due to the dispersion and refraction of light as it passes through different layers of the atmosphere. The bending of light creates a stunning display of green hues, adding depth and dimension to the sunset. The precise conditions required for the occurrence of green flashes make them a rare and captivating sight.

Capturing the Beauty: Lyudmila Zinkova's Sunset Sequence

Photographer Lyudmila Zinkova was fortunate enough to capture this extraordinary sequence of multiple blue and green flashes off the coast of San Francisco. Her images provide us with a visual feast, allowing us to appreciate the complexity and beauty of these atmospheric phenomena. Through her lens, we gain a glimpse into the magic that unfolds in the sky during such remarkable events.

In conclusion, multiple blue and green flashes during sunsets are a captivating phenomenon within the realm of atmospheric optics. The interplay between temperature inversions, bending and distortion of light, and selective scattering creates a mesmerizing display that enchants all who witness it. While scientific understanding of these flashes continues to evolve, their beauty remains unchanged. So, keep your eyes peeled during your next coastal sunset adventure - you might just witness this enchanting spectacle for yourself.

Multiple blue and green flashes. Lyudmila Zinkova (site) imaged this sunset sequence at San Francisco. The camera was ~12m above the ocean level and has caught a complex M-Mir, mock mirage, type sunset with the sun distorted into fantastical shapes and giving multiple flashes.

Conditions in coastal California are often ideal for M-Mir flashes. Offshore, the cold California Ocean Current cools the air next to the sea surface. Sometimes above that, warm dry air driven by high pressure over Utah and Nevada creates strong temperature inversions which then produce miraged sunsets and flashes. During Mila's sunset the atmospheric temperature profile was complex and several inversion layers are clearly visible. As the sun descended, simultaneous multiple flashes occurred followed by an intense single blue flash and then several more green flashes. Images ©2005 Lyudmila Zinkova, reproduced with permission.

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Reference Atmospheric Optics

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  • "Multiple blue and green flashes". Atmospheric Optics. Accessed on April 17, 2024. https://atoptics.co.uk/blog/multiple-blue-and-green-flashes/.

  • "Multiple blue and green flashes". Atmospheric Optics, https://atoptics.co.uk/blog/multiple-blue-and-green-flashes/. Accessed 17 April, 2024

  • Multiple blue and green flashes. Atmospheric Optics. Retrieved from https://atoptics.co.uk/blog/multiple-blue-and-green-flashes/.