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What turned the sky red in China?

It was an incredible sight, one that resulted in thousands of photos being shared on social media. But what caused such an event?

Red sky over Chinese city of Zhoushan

Given everything that has been happening in recent months and years, some people, those more prone to the dramatic, were pondering the end of the world being nigh. Citizens of the Chinese city of Zhoushan stared up into the sky, tense and confused after glimpsing an unusual red sky over their town.

Red sky at night, refraction of light

The event, which happened suddenly and with little warning, reportedly had some local residents seriously concerned and attracted the attention of many others across the country. In fact, the phenomenon just as quickly started trending on the Chinese social media network Weibo.

Beyond the apocalyptic theories, those that always appear when something cannot be simply explained - just ask the National UFO Reporting Center - a specialist from the Zhoushan Meteorological Bureau has detailed that the red sky can be explained by “the refraction and dispersion of light”, which most probably came from the boats in the port.

The expert explained that “when the weather conditions are good, more water in the atmosphere forms aerosols that refract and scatter the light from the fishing boats, creating the red sky seen by the public.” So, just like a hidden sun shining on part of a cloud looking like a silver flying saucer, light can play tricks on us rather easily.

Similar red sky across Spain

In recent weeks, many parts of the Iberian Peninsula also experienced episodes in which the sky turned a reddish colour. However, the cause was much clearer than in China.

The culprit was calima, an atmospheric phenomenon that the State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) defines as “the suspension in the atmosphere of extremely small non-aqueous solid particles, invisible to the human eye, but sufficiently numerous to give the sky an opalescent appearance.” More colloquially known as ‘orange dust in the air that’s messing up my car’.


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