Breakdown: Why clouds can be different colors

Breakdown: Why clouds can be different colors

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - When you think of clouds, you probably picture the white puffy clouds. However, clouds can actually come in many different colors.

The different colors are dependent upon which colors are scattered when the light travels into the atmosphere. On the electromagnetic visible spectrum, blue is the shortest wavelength, so blue scatters more than the other colors and makes the sky look blue. When light hits the water droplets in the clouds, all of the light is scattered equally. All of the visible colors combined make white, so the cloud will appear white.

However, clouds can look gray when there are more water molecules within the cloud (i.e. the cloud is thicker).

During sunrise and sunset, the sun is positioned at a lower angle and the light must travel through more atmosphere. This allows more colors to be scattered, which reveals the reds and oranges. This color is reflected onto the clouds like a projector screen.

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