The science of sunrise

Reflections on sunrise

 A glowing pink sky is one of the greatest rewards for getting up and out on an early morning run.  Sometimes it’s a fleeting moment, and the rest of the day (like today) can be awash with grey cloud and drizzle.

During the recent unseasonal spell of early Autumn warm weather in London, I saw fellow joggers literally stopped in their tracks staring at the dawn sky with wide-open mouths. On the most stunning days, our favourite viewpoints will be shared with photographers who’ve seen the sky and grabbed their kit to catch the moment. 

Like surfers seeking the best waves, there is a 21st Century online approach to predicting a “wow” sunrise, as well as traditional weather lore, though there are as many variables determining the colour of the sky (the amount of dust in the atmosphere, levels of humidity, types of cloud and time of year to list just a few) as the size of the swell so it’s far from an exact science.

In the UK, Autumn and Winter are generally thought to yield the most impressive low-sun colours, and a morning forecast for some cloud is often a good signal for a memorable photo as the cloud catches the first light and reflects the sunrise pink and gold.

Being just a few minutes late can mean missing the whole show.  It’s easy enough to get accurate sunrise timings (for instance, though these are calculated as the moment the sun would break a perfectly flat horizon at precisely sea level and the dawn sky begins to lighten some time before that, so you have to rely on your own local observations over a few days to be out in time.


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