Florida’s Weird Purple Sky Looks Like ‘Stranger Things,’ but Rightside Up

Purple sky over parking lot with palm trees

If the Mind Flayer happened to be feeling a rare spell of calm, it might look a bit like the Florida sky in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Photographs and time lapse video footage taken in Jacksonville showed gorgeous (if slightly unsettling) purple clouds blanketing the area this week.

Sunset changed the overhead hue from lilac to violet, evoking a pleasant twist on the foreboding skies over Hawkins, Indiana, in the Netflix show Stranger Things.

The purple tint is the result of a phenomenon known as scattering, the same effect that creates the orange and red colors we see during sunrise and sunset. Molecules and small particles in the atmosphere cause rays of sunlight with shorter wavelengths, like blue and violet, to change course, or scatter, before they reach our eyes.

Timelapse video captured in Jacksonville, Fla. shows the sky turning purple during sunset following Hurricane Dorian. 

This effect also explains why the daytime sky looks blue, since humans can’t see violet very well.

During sunrise and sunset, though, the sun is lower on the horizon, so light is passing through more air than it does at midday. This results in more scattering.

“More atmosphere means more molecules to scatter the violet and blue light away from your eyes,” writes Steven Ackerman, Ph.D., a professor of meteorology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “If the path is long enough, all of the blue and violet light scatters out of your line of sight. The other colors continue on their way to your eyes. This is why sunsets are often yellow, orange, and red.”

But the colors we see can change when hurricanes are involved. (Or like, when the Mind Flayer is summoning a super chill group of Demodogs.) Hurricane clouds and moisture distort sunlight, changing its appearance. So instead of the usual red-orange sunset, we see violet, like Floridians did this week.

Orange sky and giant monster above a forest
The Shadow Monster looms over Hawkins, Indiana. 

“You’re seeing a sunset normally, but you have low clouds underneath from the hurricane that are distorting the [normal sunset] colors to make it seem purple,” storm expert Steve Fundaro tells First Coast News. It’s “as if you’re looking through a filter.”