What Makes Some Clouds Pink?

Pink-Clouds
“Beautiful pink clouds” by bluesbby is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

When we look up into the sky, we usually see a blue sky with white-fluffy clouds. But, if we ever look deep into it, we will come to know that there is more to the blue sky! 

There are a lot of different colours that the clouds turn into; ranging from shades of green to the lovely shades of pink.

Pink sky is part of the red sky which usually appears at sunrise or sunset. 

A cumulus cloud is the most common type of cloud. It is white when sunlight hits it, the base colour is mostly dark.

How Do Clouds Become Pink? 

The clouds turning into different colours has reasons; sometimes a cloud appears to pink to us because of two main reasons: 

Atmospheric Optics 

The fluffy-white cloud we see has water particles inside it which are heavily concentrated together, thus, light can not penetrate through easily. 

The fine white clouds are then filled with same water molecules but the arrangement is not heavily concentrated so that the light can easily pass through. 

Then, when the clouds appear to us as pink, red, or even orange, we can easily allocate light to this. 

Mostly at the times of sunrise and sunset, the reflection of sunlight throughout the sky makes the clouds appear to us as pink, red, and even orange. 

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A point to ponder over here is that clouds are colourless, hence, the colours they appear in are a reflection of the water vapour they have been made up of. 

Pollution 

As previously mentioned, clouds mostly appear pink at sunrise and sunset due to the light waves but sometimes when the clouds are extra notable, we should know it is because of the pollution. You can read about harmful effects of air pollution here.

A well-known director of chemical sciences has emphasised that the pink and red hues of the skies are not possible without the presence of aerosols in the atmosphere.

Aerosols are the aftermath of things like the forest fires, human activity, and also extreme amount of dirt. 

Usually in cities aerosols are released from vehicles, thus, high traffic areas tend to have pink clouds. 

When Can You See Pink Clouds? 

Sunrise and sunset are the two main times of the day when you are likely to see pink clouds. 

There is an angle formed between the sun and the horizon when it is about to rise or set, that angle has a percentage to it. 

If it is less than 10%, the sunlight is visible to us as red because of the refracting colours. When the light hits the atmosphere, it scatters and is turned into wavelengths that go into numerous ways. As a result of this, we see various colours. 

When the wavelengths are short, the sky appears to us as blue or purple, it is also known as a blue wavelength. 

Whereas, when the wavelengths are longer, the sky appears to us in the shades of pink, red, and orange. 

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Other Colours of Clouds And What They Mean

Light Grey/ Blue Grey 

The grey clouds are usually a sign of a storm coming! The blues are a result of shorter wavelengths and they are in the process of producing rain. 

The more rain being formed and stored in the cloud, the thicker the cloud gets; and the thicker the cloud gets, more light is being stored in it which does not reflect but scatters numerous colours altogether. 

And this is how rain clouds are formed. 

Yellow 

Pollution is the reason the clouds turn into a yellow colour. They are the aftermath of excessive amount of dust in the environment, forest fires, or pollution. 

The smoke emitted is yellow which goes into the sky and creates a yellow hue. 

Yellow skies which are usually seen in bigger cities with high pollution rate are the result of nitrogen dioxide in the air. Yellow skies are alarming and are not as pleasant in view as the pink skies. 

Greenish 

Greenish clouds are also not very pleasant to the eyes as they are a sign of a thunderstorm, heavy lightening, hail, and even a tornado! These clouds appear greenish when the red light passes through the storm clouds. 

What Is A Rainbow Cloud? 

Beautiful Rainbow Cloud

A rainbow cloud is when you can see various colours in the cloud at once. It is a beautiful view that brings positive feelings to the person looking at it! 

There is refraction of lightwaves in the sky like altocumulus, cirrocumulus, cirrus clouds, or lenticular, on days after a thunderstorm. 

The ice crystals and the water droplets stored in the clouds create a prism which forms a rainbow through the refraction of light. 

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In the rainbow cloud, you will not see bold colours like red, green, or dark blue; you will see pastel colours like pink, mint, and lavender. 

There are some conditions of a rainbow cloud to be formed which are as follows:

  • The angle of the sun has to be 58° or more.
  • The second factor here is the type of the cloud. High altitude is preferred like of the thin cirrus clouds. The thin ice crystals of the cirrus clouds makes it easier for the light to refract and form rainbow colours. 
  • Third factor is the angle which has to be about 10° from the sun for the sunlight to enter the ice crystals. 

Fulfilling these conditions results in a beautiful rainbow cloud. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a pink cloud syndrome?

Ans. A pink cloud syndrome or pink clouding is when you are recovering from early addiction. You can check out this excellent article for more information.

2. What makes the clouds go pink? 

Ans. When there is a large amount of dust along with aerosols gathered in the atmosphere, it scatters the light and makes the clouds appear to us as pink.

3. What do pink clouds at night mean?

Ans. Mostly, pink clouds at night means that it is going to be a good weather tomorrow morning. 

Whereas, pink clouds in the morning mean that it is going to be a bad weather throughout the day.

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