Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Beautiful Tropical Sunsets of the Caribbean - Why They Occur

"The Beautiful Tropical Sunsets of the Caribbean - Why They Occur"," There are some locations on certain Caribbean islands like Rick's Café in Jamaica and Shirley Heights in Antigua that are world famous for the sunsets that can be viewed from these locations and an evening spent looking at these spectacular sunsets is often the highlight of a vacation.

To understand why there are such beautiful sunsets in the Caribbean we must first consider what is meant by the term sunset.
 While the sun going below the horizon is actual sun set, most people associate the term sunset with the brilliant colours of gold, red, yellow and purple that are seen in the sky when the sun goes below the horizon.
 As the sunlight passes through the atmosphere the colour elements in the sunlight are scattered, with the blue light being scattered by air molecules and the white light being scattered by water drops and dust.
 At sunset the light from the sun has a much longer distance to travel before it reaches the human eye.
 Because of this increased distance more of the blue and violet elements of the light are scattered which leaves the yellow, red and purple colours to be seen by the human eye.
 The answer now lies in the geography of the Caribbean.
 Without dust in the atmosphere the sunset colours tend to be yellow or orange while an increase in the dust particles causes the colours to be more towards red and purple.
 The area called the Caribbean is a collection of small islands surrounded by miles of ocean.
  This is not to say that there is no dust in the atmosphere above the islands of the Caribbean, rather the dust is in small quantities creating the correct blend to give the full range of sunset colours.
 Every year between June and August, there is a phenomenon known as Sahara Dust.
 The dust, originating from fine particles in the arid topsoil, is transported into the atmosphere by winds and carried more than 10,000 feet high.
 This Sahara Dust enhances the richness of the sunset seen on some days.
 Most Caribbean islands are relatively small in size so that no part of any island is far from a westward facing beach.
 Even when inland on a Caribbean island, the fact that the majority of areas still have their natural vegetation provides a scene for a visually rich sunset.

All sunsets can be beautiful but when the sky has a few clouds the sunset can be awe inspiring.
  Very high clouds such as cirrus, cirrostratus, and cirrocumulus clouds, which are made up almost entirely of ice crystals due to the extreme altitudes where they are found, capture the light before there is any colour loss due to dust.
 For many countries, low lying clouds such as stratus and stratocumulus clouds do not generally enhance the sunset because they tend to be at the level where there is much dust in the atmosphere.

Wherever you are in the Caribbean when the sun is setting, take a moment to enjoy the beauty of the sunset.