NORWALK, Conn. -- Enjoying Norwalk’s beautiful summertime sunsets is a relaxing way to unwind from a long day, especially while taking advantage of the city’s waterfront views.
In addition to their visual appeal, the bright hues visible just before dusk are some of the most accurate forecasters for upcoming weather. Following the ancient mariner rhyme “red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning” can help predict the following day’s weather.
The beautiful hues that come with the suns rising and falling each day are simply the refraction of light through water vapor in the atmosphere. Much like shining white light through a prism, as sunlight passes through clear water droplets, a rainbow of colors emerge. Red light contains the longest wavelength, so when it collides with vapor-rich air the waves are broken and result in a breathtaking atmospheric display. This dazzling display is most visible during high pressure systems. As a general meteorological rule, high pressure point towards favorable weather.
In the mid-latitudes, storm systems generally move from West to East. So when facing west and watching a blood red sunset, the color shows a high pressure system is approaching. Since high pressure means good weather, the next 24 hours should contain fair weather. Conversely when facing east and witnessing a red sunrise, to shows a high pressure front is moving away. The high pressure is being driven out by an incoming low pressure front and stormy weather is likely to follow.
In an age of smartphones and 24/7 weather coverage, the skill of reading the wind and water has become a lost art. For millennia, sailors from the Atlantic to the Baltic started and ended each day examining the sky, looking for clues as to what Mother Nature had in store.
So next time you stand on the pier at Calf Pasture watching the sun slip behind the horizon, remember the old maritime rhyme and try your hand at weather forecasting.
John Haffey Jr. is a Norwalk resident and Long Island Sound enthusiast and has navigated and fished Coastal Connecticut for years.