Tag Archives: green flash

The Green Flash

Published by the Marketing/ PR Committee
United States Power Squadrons®Contact Greg Scotten gscotten@comcast.net


Many a boater has sat at anchor waiting for the sun to set and watching for the illusive “green flash.” After many sunsets with no flash, most assume the green flash is a wive’s tail and cease looking. Recently my wife and I were off Florida’s Fort Myers Beach and had the thrill of a life time as the flash appeared and in fact momentarily left a green haze crowning the sun as it disappeared below the horizon. So, yes fellow boaters, there is a green flash!

Sunlight is composed of all colors of the spectrum, each having a different wave length. The differing wave lengths then result in a differing rate of dispersion, as the colors are scattered across the sky and disappear. At sunset, the blue/violet colors end the spectrum and are the first to disappear. That is why sunsets normally lack any blue tones. The red end of the spectrum is refracted the easiest and is the last to dissipate as the red then disappears with the sun as it drops below the horizon. With the blue tones dispersed and the red tones sinking with the sun, all which is left is the green.

So how come we don’t always see a green flash? Well, the earth’s atmosphere is not a constant. Varying sun spot activity and moisture content (think rainbow) create a variety of conditions, all of which can affect the rate of color dispersion at sunset and dictate what we see as the sun disappears below the horizon.

In looking for the green flash, take care to protect your eyes. It can be very harmful to look directly at the sun. I like to watch the sun sink via its reflection from a hard surface and only turn to view it direct as it reaches its low point to the horizon. Of course I am also wearing a strong UV rated pair of sun glasses. Even that small final crescent peeking over the horizon can hurt your eyes.

So don’t give up, the green flash does exist, and you may yet have a chance to witness this phenomenon. Lots of sunsets and patience may one day reward you with membership in that exclusive club of sailors that have witnessed this beautiful phenomenon.

My wife and I still talk about how gorgeous the sunset was that day off Fort Myers Beach when we witnessed the green flash. Boating can not only be fun, but it can also allow you to join an audience watching a miraculous display of the wonders of nature.

To learn more about boating enjoyment, contact the boating experts of the United States Power Squadrons. Look for their local notices or go to the national website at www.USPS.org.

As its members tell us: ““Boating is fun…We’ll show you how.”

Lt. Bill Hempel
Senior Feature Writer
Marketing/Public relations Committee
United States Power Squadrons®