The science behind spectacular skies in the Prairies

Saskatchewan's atmosphere really comes alive during the sunrise and sunset each day.

CBC meteorologist Christy Climenhaga explains what's behind the beauty

Dunja Gaco shared this photo with CBC Saskatchewan on Facebook. Gaco says it was taken in January near Cat Lake, Sask., close to the Key Lake, Sask., mining site. (Dunja Gaco)

Saskatchewan is known as the land of the living skies and for good reason.

Our skies often show a wide array of weather during the day, but during sunsets and sunrises, our atmosphere really comes alive.

To understand sunsets you first have to think about light itself. Our eyes can only see a small portion of the radiation from the sun, which is called visible light. Visible light is made up of a spectrum of colours with different wavelengths. Red, orange and yellow have a longer wavelengths, whereas green, blue and violet have shorter wavelengths. 

As the sun's rays pass through our atmosphere, light is scattered by particles and gases. Light with shorter wavelengths is easily scattered in all directions. Because our eyes are more sensitive to blue light as opposed to violet, that is the colour you see in the sky during the day.

As the sun sinks towards the horizon, light has to travel a much longer distance through the atmosphere to reach us. This means that most of the blue and violet light is scattered out of the beam before it reaches our eyes, leaving the reds and yellows behind for us to see.

Clouds can really help take our sunsets to another level. They reflect the reds and oranges from the setting sun, offering a spectacular view. 

Your photos

Linda Scobie shared this photo with CBC Saskatchewan, taken near Kamsack, Sask. (Linda Scobie)
Katie Miller, or @katiemillersk on Twitter, sent this photo of a sunrise she captured in January in Esterhazy, Sask. (Katie Miller)
Dustin Morris shared this beautiful sunset with CBC Saskatchewan, taken on a farm near Eastend, Sask. (Dustin Morris)
Nilüfer KcView took this photo in Regina. (Nilüfer KcView)

If you'd like to share your photography with us and Saskatchewan, tag @CBCSask on Instagram, send CBC Saskatchewan or CBC Saskatoon a Facebook message, tweet @CBCSask or @CBCSaskatoon, or email


Christy Climenhaga

CBC Meteorologist

Christy Climenhaga, CBC Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatchewan's Meteorologist, covers weather and climate change stories for the prairies.