The colors we see in the sky are due to the rays of sunlight being split into colors of the spectrum as they pass through the atmosphere and ricochet off the water vapor and particles in the atmosphere. A red sky suggests an atmosphere loaded with dust and moisture particles. We see the red, because red wavelengths (the longest in the color spectrum) are breaking through the atmosphere.
Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.
A red sunrise can mean that a high-pressure system (good weather) has already passed, thus indicating that a storm system (low pressure) may be moving to the east. A morning sky that is a deep, fiery red can indicate high water content in the atmosphere. So, rain could be on its way.
MOUNTAIN OF CLOUDS
Red sky at night, sailors delight.
When we see a red sky at night, this means that the setting sun is sending its light through a high concentration of dust particles. This usually indicates high pressure and stable air coming in from the west. Basically good weather will follow.
SHADES OF GRAY
Ominous storm clouds
According to the National Weather Service, clouds are divided into 27 categories, nine each for low, middle and high clouds.
Cumulonimbus clouds indicate showers or thunderstorms may occur.
A shelf cloud is a low, horizontal wedge-shaped cloud associated with a thunderstorm gust front – or occasionally a cold front without thunderstorms. The underside appears turbulent, boiling and wind-torn.
A FOOL’S ERRAND
Meet Roy G. Biv, otherwise known as the colors of a rainbow – Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet. Seventeenth century mathematician René Descartes wrote about the optics of rainbows by studying how light interacted with a single drop of water. “Considering that this bow appears not only in the sky, but also in the air near us, whenever there are drops of water illuminated by the sun, as we can see in certain fountains, I readily decided that it arose only from the way in which the rays of light act on these drops and pass from them to our eyes,” Descartes wrote in explaining why we see a bow. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is a fool’s errand.
A BILLION VOLTS
The awesome power of lightning is a reaction between negative and positive charges. The negative charges build in the cloud by colliding particles of ice, rain or snow. The ground and objects below the ground are positively charged, and nature attempts to correct the imbalance by passing current between the negatively charged cloud and the positively charged objects below. A single thunderbolt can contain up to one billion volts of electricity.