I love the fiery skies of November, a month of clouds that can make for magical skies.

The sky is active and changing before our eyes. All we need to do is to look up to enjoy the beauty and wonder of another source of nature’s fascinating phenomena.

We see the brilliant blue sky, largely taken for granted. Light coming from the sun, some 93 million miles away, is composed of a spectrum of colors, those same colors that are seen in a rainbow. When sunlight enters Earth’s atmosphere, it encounters the atoms and molecules of air. All of the colors except blue travel to the surface, but blue bounces off the atmosphere’s atoms and molecules. Because the blue waves bounce, they end up reaching our eyes from all parts of the sky, not just straight from the sun. That is why the sky looks blue.

Sunrises and sunsets are red because all other colors in sunlight are scattered and absorbed by atoms, molecules and dust particles in the air. The sun is low, and light goes through much more atmosphere. The reds and oranges are scattered, too, but just enough to spread a glow over the sky.

Clouds add to the beauty of a sunset or sunrise, but only if they are high enough and don’t block the sun. The underside of the clouds must be illuminated. That makes for a majestic sunset or sunrise.

We are deep into November, the month of clouds, and when skies are partly to mostly covered by the high, wispy cirrus clouds, spectacular sunsets and rises enchant us.


Jim Gilbert has been a naturalist for more than 50 years.