Weather Wise Kids: Why is the sky blue?

This week, Naya asked Storm Team 3 why the sky is blue. It is a question that is actually asked fairly often by kids and adults alike.

On a clear and cloudless day you can look up and see a beautiful blue sky. To understand why the sky is blue, we need to know how light works. When light travels from the sun it moves in waves; sort of like the waves you see when you go to the beach. Some waves are close together, while other waves are more spread out. When all the different wavelengths travel together light appears white to our eyes. The white light from the sun is a mixture of all the colors of the rainbow; therefore. it is possible to see many different colors when you look up at the sky.

When the sun shines down on us, all of the colors in the rainbow shine through the upper levels of the atmosphere, but it’s the blue light that scatters across the entire planet.  During the day the sky is blue because molecules in the air scatter the blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light.

The color of the sky can change based on dust, pollution and water vapor because they all absorb and scatter the sunlight differently. You will also notice that the color of the sky changes depending on the time of day.

During sunrise and sunset the blue light that we see during the day gets scattered out, therefore we end up seeing different shades of red and orange. The sunlight must travel through more of the atmosphere and by the time it reaches us, all of the blue has been scattered away.

No matter what color you see, always remember to snap a picture of it and send it to pics@wsav.com!

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