Hurricane Michael stormed through the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 disaster Wednesday, leading to dangerous storm surge and flooding. Two deaths — one in Florida and another in Georgia — have been reported as of Thursday. The tropical storm swept out of Georgia before sunrise.
But as Michael charged into Georgia as a Category 3 storm Wednesday evening, it left behind haunting purple skies looming over the Panhandle.
According to research reported in Science Daily, this coloring of the sky is due to a phenomenon called scattering. “Scattering affects the color of light coming from the sky, but the details are determined by the wavelength of the light and the size of the particle,” University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists said.
Think of the sky as just the atmosphere with its colors solely determined by the light from the sun. For example, after a sunset thunderstorm, you may notice the sky turns orange-ish. This is because the sunlight splits into different colors of the spectrum as they pass through the atmosphere. The light from the sun also has to travel further through the atmosphere at sunset, causing the blue light to scatter before it even gets to us, leaving only reddish orange colors, which have longer wavelengths.
Similarly, after Michael, with the sun setting so low in the sky, its white sunlight had more space in the atmosphere to get through, meaning more of the light was able to scatter before reaching our eyes. As aforementioned, blue light has a short wavelength and a high frequency, so it is strongly scattered. Violet or purple light has an even shorter wavelength and higher frequency than blue light.
But enough about the science behind the phenomenon. Take a look at some locally-snapped photos of Wednesday’s ghostly night sky from the Florida Panhandle through Alabama:
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