CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - One of the most common pictures people send me on my Eric Thomas WBTV Facebook page are pretty shots of sunrises and sunsets. And one of the most common questions I get over the years are about the following saying: Red skies at night, sailors delight, red skies in the morning, sailors take warning.
People want to know if there is any truth to that or is it pure folklore? Many sayings about the weather and the various folklore that we encounter are actually devoid of any scientific merit. But then again, some sayings can be explained through science and this proverb is one of them.
We all know when the sun gets low in the sky, there is a tendency for it to become more yellowish, or orange, or perhaps even a ruby red. The exact hue depends on how much particulate matter is in the atmosphere. Small particles and aerosols "scatter" the blue wavelengths away from the main beam of light, which leaves behind the reddish color.
High pressure regions, which are generally fair-weather systems, are known for their calm environments. Because of the lack of wind, there is more likely to be a buildup of particulate matter. Thus, high pressure to the west (red sky at night) is likely moving toward you, therefore bringing quiet weather while red skies in the morning means high pressure is to your east meaning fair weather is more likely moving away.