Weather Lore: Red Skies at Night, Sailors Delight. Red Skies at Morning, Sailors Warning.

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“Red skies at night, sailors delight. Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning.” This is a famous saying used to help sailors when they go out on the ocean. Since this saying has originated from so long ago when people’s predictions were not always scientifically correct, is this weather lore fact or fiction?

Weather lore’s like this one have been used since people did not have high tech gadgets to predict the weather, so they had to make observations to predict what kind of day it was, to navigate ships, and even used when planting crops. Shakespeare mentions something similar in one of his famous plays, Venus and Adonis. “Like a red morn that ever yet betokened, Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field, sorrow to the shepherds, woe unto the birds, gusts and foul flaws to herdmen and to herds.” In the Bible, Matthew XVI: 2-3, Jesus said, “When in evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: For the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today; for the sky is red and lowering.”

To understand why “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning” can predict the weather, we have to understand more about weather and the colors in the sky. The colors you notice in the sky are due to rays of sunlight being split into colors of the spectrum as they pass through the atmosphere and bounce off the water vapor and particles in the atmosphere. The amounts of water vapor and dust particles in the atmosphere are good indicators of weather conditions. They also determine which colors we will see in the sky. When there is a sunrise or sunset the sun is low in the sky and it transmits light through the thickest part of the atmosphere. If there is a red sky that means that there is more dust and moisture particles in the atmosphere. We see the red, because red wavelengths are breaking through the atmosphere. Red wavelengths are the longest color in the color hue. The shorter wavelengths, such as blue, are scattered and divided...
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