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The Mysterious Green Flash

Recently, a reader asked the Old Farmer’s Almanac: “Can you explain what causes the green flash that is often seen in the Caribbean when the sun sets?”

Of course, those of us on the West Coast also gaze at the horizon in hopes of catching a green flash as the sun sets behind the Pacific Ocean. (Hopefully no one is staring directly into the sun while doing so.)

Latitude’s Andy Turpin captured this green flash off the coast of Baja California in 2015.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Andy

The explanation from the Almanac was: “The green flash can be seen anytime the Sun rises or sets on a clear, unobstructed, low horizon such as the ocean. Just before the Sun rises, or right after it sets, you may see a brief flash of green. This is because you are looking at the Sun through the atmosphere. The water vapor in the atmosphere absorbs the yellow and orange light, and it scatters the violet light. What is left is the red and blue-green light. Near the horizon, the Sun’s light is bent, or refracted, and it’s as if there were two Suns — a red one and a blue-green one — partly covering each other. The red one is closer to the horizon, so when it sets, you see only the fleeting edge of the blue-green disk.”

Listen to the Almanac’s podcast about the green flash here: Latitude 38’s Loose Lips column also looked into the green flash phenomenon last October.

Have you ever captured a photo of green flash? If so, please email it to us.


  1. Arnold Oliver 5 years ago

    The green flash is real, and also the title of a decent detective yarn by John D. McDonald

    • robert cleveland 5 years ago

      Fantastic Author and yes the Flash is Real seen both rising and setting
      Believe setting is more common

  2. Orlando 5 years ago

    Drink beer from a green bottle, guaranteed green flash.

  3. Louis A Schweitzer 5 years ago

    I was a disbeliever, but on the Baja Ha-Ha in 2015 I saw it too. It lasted only a moment, in which my two buddies were facing the east and I was the only one facing west. If Andy took this picture on the first leg to turtle Bay, I may have seen the same Green Flash.

  4. Gerry Gilbert 5 years ago

    I was witnessed the same flash as Andy and many other Baja Ha Ha sailors that year. The VHF went wild with testimonials, an I have it on video. One hundred days at sea & my best example!

  5. Bob Jehle 5 years ago

    If you crouch down just before the end of sunset and then stand up slowly you can make the green flash linger. Works best with sand between your toes. ;o)

    • Roger Briggs 5 years ago

      Also works better for Kareem Abdul Jabbar

  6. Suzanne Statler 5 years ago

    In the 2010 Baja HaHa, one night at sunset we realized it could the perfect night to see the ellusive Green Flash. One of the 4 of us grabbed his camera to photograph it. Three of us saw this most amazing site we will never forget. The 4th has a blur of non-descript sky on his memory card.

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