Sunrise, sunset [Why are sunsets more colorful than sunrises?]

Just watched another spectacular sunset over the Hudson River. So how come the sunrise to the east is so drab in comparison to the sunsets in the west?

My theory has always been that there is more dust and pollution in the air after a long, hot day, so sunsets are more impressive.

It would be interesting to hear from someone on the west coast, to see if the difference between rising over the ocean and over land makes a difference. I live in Ohio, and the sunrises are pretty nice, but not as nice as the sunsets.

I live on the Left Coast and the Sun rises in the East here, from over the continent. It only sets on the ocean. You might want to go further west, say Hawaii, for an answer.

Sunrises are drab compared to sunsets because you usually have your eyes closed for them.

I can tell you this: I have lived in California all my life. When I was around 19 years old, Mount St. Helens, a volcano in Washington State, blew and spewed a lot of volcanic crap into the air. The sunsets that year were absolutely stupendous. Lots of flamingo pinks and apricot oranges, and writ large upon the sky.

Sunsets in general have more intensity of color here. Sunrises, as seen over the Oakland Hills from where I am, involve violets and pinks; but they have a new, pristine quality of color that feels both hopeful and virginal, if that doesn’t sound too weird. The sunsets, on the other hand, have a more rich and inclusive quality and they also appear to last longer, with all the pinky/golden/orangey stuff fading into marvellous “evening blue” and “midnight blue” colors before actually going inky black.

Thread title edited to better indicate question.

General Questions Moderator

Is there really any evidence, beyond a few peoples anecdotal experiences, that this is true in general, and regardless of accidents of local geography? I suspect Chronos has the real answer.

I’ve seen the sun rise over Lake Huron and on other occasions I’ve seen the sun set over Lake Michigan many times.

Both equally beautiful, IMHO. I can’t really think of an objective, astronomical or meteorological reason, other than maybe a bit of psychology, that would make much of a difference in appearance between rising or setting; everything else being equal.

Chronos sounds wise but I am a night shift worker and see more sunrises than sunsets. At least in NY there’s no comparison. I suspect that there is a scientific reason for this.

Beowulff’s suggestion of rising dust and pollution with air temp sounds reasonable. Recently took a colorful sunrise photo on the east coast. Nothing unusual about the weather. But even as an early bird, I’m not out looking at the sunrise as often as I’m out and about at sunset.

Maybe it has to do with the amount of moisture in the air. During the night a lot of water condenses out of the air, taking with it some of the other particles (dust, etc, as mentioned). This results in fewer particles to scatter the light at sunrise. Through the warmth of the day, the process reverses.

Just a guess.

There’s the old adage “red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailor take warning”. Apparently it’s at least partially true:

So maybe there tend to be more colorful sunsets because bad weather usually isn’t as frequent as good weather. I’ve seen many very colorful sunrises over the years, and they do seem to precede bad weather later in the day.

The sailors’ adage leaves out “No red sky at all; that’s also OK”. Not all good weather is heralded by “red sky at night”: That specifically means that you had bad weather, but it’s passing now.

Also, I believe the sailor’s adage developed in latitudes where the weather tends to move west to east. If you live someplace that’s not the case, then the saying may not be true as often. I understand that the red sky is related in part to the amount of moisture in the atmosphere which can portend storms - that is, if the weather is moving your way. Regarding the OP, my experience does not support the stated premise. I swim in Lake Michigan in the mornings and have seen some spectacular sunrises.