Ex-Ophelia's Red Hurricane Sun

The excitement was brewing.  It had been building all weekend.  We were having a hurricane.  Spookily, exactly 30 years to the day after the 'big storm' of 1987.  This sticks in my memory.  Our huge walnut tree with the best swing ever was no more.

Storm, 1987, tree fall

The path of ex-hurricane Ophelia had been pretty consistent in the build up and I was, I have to admit, a little disappointed.  We were in the yellow 'be prepared' zone but were missing the main event.  No big waves without a drive and that wasn't possible with my work commitments.

The light Monday morning was weird.  It felt oppressive.  Even yellow.  It was like a life in sepia.  The birds were silent like an eclipse and the street lights were refusing to go off even as the day progressed.  Just as I was heading out a friend messaged to say "Have you seen the sun?".  Had I see it?, of course not, it was cloudy and 'yellow' out there.  So I went for a quick look and oh my goodness was it special.

Bright red in the sky, the sun was glowing at 11am as it does at sunset sometimes.  The clouds were flitting over the surface giving it even more of an early Halloween feel.  Thank goodness my camera is always ready.  With a lunch date I only had time for a quick grab, but it was so worthwhile.


Why the Red Hurricane Sun

Usually we see a red sun at sunset.  The angle of the sun means that the light passes through more of the atmosphere with only the red light left visible.  Given this was happening four hours after sunrise something else was coming in to play.

Ophelia had been building and swirling since she formed way down in the Atlantic near the Azores.  The swirling mass of weather had picked up dust from the Sahara.  This was contained within the storm clouds and was carried north.

Added to the sand were ash particles from large forest fires in Spain and Portugal.  There was even a smoky smell to the air, a real assault on the senses.

As the sunlight passes through the Saharan dust, the longer wavelengths are scattered by the dust particles. The blues and greens in white light are scattered, letting the oranges and reds through. Exactly the same as sunset, but in the middle of the day!  Extremely cool but very eerie.