Stories in Washington

Exploring Nature: Winter Sunsets

Illustrations by Erica Sloniker, Marketing and Visual Communications Specialist

Illustration of an orange and red sunset.
Sunset Illustrations from field notes written while exploring Robert Y. Pratt Preserve in Washington. © Erica Simek Sloniker/TNC

Welcome to Exploring Nature, an illustrated blog series that (re)discovers the natural world through art, science and observation.

Illustration of a sunset along a coastline.
Illustration of the sun's rays hitting the earth.
Eight illustrations of sunsets.
Illustration of words in a field notebook.
Illustration of a shoreline at night.


Winter Sunsets at Robert Y. Pratt Preserve

Friday 12-19-23

The days are dark this time of year, so thank goodness it’s peak sunset season! I observed a stunner today on my Whidbey Island hike.

Wanting to understand why sunsets are at their best in the winter, I found out a few things…

  1. Winter sun rays have a longer path through the atmosphere due to the low sun angle. More blue lights gets filtered out. More red and orange light makes it through. Sunsets are ablaze!
  2. Because the sun is lower on the horizon, the time it takes the sun to set is longer.
  3. Dryer air scatters less light helping our eyes see purer color.
  4. Clouds are more likely and reflect more light.

Now that the sun has set, there’s a chill in the air. Winter sunsets end early. Time to head out, find a cozy dinner spot, and settle in.