Little Known Fact Series #2: The Green Flash

Some months ago I started on occasional series called Little Known Facts. It might not be a series yet, because there has been one, and only one, post to it. It was back in July and called, Little Known Fact Series #1: The Wisconsin Connection to the Niagara Escarpment.

My aim with this series is to provide some informational, yet entertaining tidbits that might enlighten you in one way or another. Today’s post is on the Green Flash and was decided upon this morning when I went to my drafts folder to help me decide upon which subject to write.

Certainly, the Green Flash sounds like it could reference a comic book character, similar to The Green Hornet or The Flash or maybe, a combination thereof. In reality, if you check Wikipedia, there are many references to a green flash that all refer to slightly different things. The Green Flash to which I refer is the optical phenomenon seen at sunset or sunrise near the horizon of ocean-beach type settings.

I first became interested in The Green Flash years ago when we would vacation in Florida or South Carolina. In fact, there is a restaurant on Captiva Island, Florida called The Green Flash. We have never been to the restaurant, (we went to The Bubble Room, instead), but the phenomenon itself has always interested me and I wanted to see it.

Carlsbad Beach – California, 2012.  Waiting to see a Green Flash. © Carol Labuzzetta

So what is the Green Flash? According to Andrew T. Young’s website, who appears from a quick google search to be one of the pre-eminent experts on the subject, the Green Flash refers to a group of sunset/sunrise optical phenomenon that allows us to see a “flash”  or a temporary and fleeting burst of green light just as the sun goes down below the horizon and is due to the refraction of light.  But, to confuse matters more, green flashes can be seen at sunrise as well, and at all kinds of latitudes, not just “certain ones” that resemble exotic places. They also can be observed over a flat land horizon, not just the wave filled ocean. But, most importantly, green flashes DO exist! If you want a more thorough explanations of some of the myths surrounding the optical phenomenons of green flashes, you can visit an addition page from Andrew T. Young at his posting on Green Flashes and Misconceptions. This aforementioned page also has a photographic example of what you might see during a green flash. Mind you, they last only for a second or two!  A couple other examples can be found here.

I do not profess any kind of understanding of any of the green flashes or refractory phenomenon, just that I think they are a unique natural occurring oddity that would be cool to witness. Alas, during our trips to Florida, Hawaii, and the San Diego area beaches, we’ve never been treated to a Green Flash! This failure won’t keep me from continuing to look, however!

Have you ever witnessed a cool optical refractory phenomenon? If so, tell me about it in the comments and include where you were when you saw it! What made it memorable?

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