Cloudy, but Still Bright! How Can it Be?


Do you recognize this guy?  Of course you do!  It’s Channel 4 Sports Anchor, Chris Harris.  He was out in our parking lot today, gazing up at the clouds, pondering…

Was he thinking….”Hmmmm…chicken or steak for dinner.  Chicken’s leaner…..BUT…it’s been a couple weeks since I had my last Philly cheesesteak!”?  Possibly.

There’s also a chance the turbines in his brain were working doubletime as he reflected on how there could be a deck of clouds above, but it was still so BRIGHT.”

Well….let’s address that for Chris (in case those were his true thoughts) and for anyone else who’s ever wondered that before.

Often, when it’s cloudy out, it gets darker…like shown here.


Those clouds, in the photos above and below are stratus or stratocumulus clouds.  They’re made up of liquid water (and not ice), because they’re low in our atmosphere (usually about a mile or so above the ground).  Liquid cloud droplets reflect light AWAY from our eyes, backward, toward outer space….as shown here.


The clouds overhead today were different though.  They were cirrus clouds.  Cirrus is very high in the sky (6-8 miles up) and made entirely of ice (no liquid water), because at that altitude it’s much colder.  Why does that matter?  Well….ice crystals scatter the sun’s light FORWARD, toward our eyes.


See what I mean?

SO….on days like today with thin cirrus moving in, you still get nearly the same amount of sunlight reaching your eyes as you do on completely sunny days…..PLUS, the sky isn’t a nice deep blue in color….it’s bright white!  Therefore, it appears brighter outdoors than normal.

Clouds are here to stay for a bit.  Tonight on Channel 4 News at 6:30pm & 10pm we’ll talk about what that means for rain for us in the coming days.





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One Response to Cloudy, but Still Bright! How Can it Be?

  1. Sheila James says:

    Thank you…..

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