Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith has noticed something funny lately. “The sky looks weird in Baltimore,” he tweeted last evening. He was referring to yesterday’s weird sunset, which had some people half-convinced that an alien mothership was about to land on the city. But he could’ve just as easily been referring to any number of recent dramatic sunsets–which led me to wonder, just why have Baltimore’s autumnal evenings been so colorful recently?
According to the Weather Channel, “During this time of year, weather patterns allow for dry, clean Canadian air to sweep across country, and more colors of the spectrum make it through to our eyes without getting scattered by particles in the air, producing brilliant sunsets and sunrises that can look red, orange, yellow or even pink.” And contrary to what I previously thought, increased pollution does not make for more exciting sunsets (except when that pollution is from a volcanic eruption). “The truth is that tropospheric aerosols…do not enhance sky colors–they subdue them. Clean air is, in fact, the main ingredient common to brightly colored sunrises and sunsets,” says Stephen Corfidi of the National Weather Service.
Last night’s sunset was a particularly unique “shelf cloud” specimen, a phenomenon typically found at the front edge of a coming thunderstorm. Quite a few folks captured lovely images of the sunset on Instagram; here are a few of our favorites. Readers: if you’ve got more spectacular sunset photos, please send them our way!