Bushfire Sunset Over the Blue Mountains

June 25, 2014

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Photographer: Phillip Lachman
Summary Authors: Phillip Lachman; Jackie Phillips

In October 2013, bushfires erupted in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia, producing a huge plume of smoke that drifted southeast over the city. The smoke created a vivid sunset with reds of every shade dominating the scene. 

At sunset, light must travel farther through the atmosphere before it gets to the observer. The short wavelength blues and greens are reflected and scattered making the Sun appear dimmer, while the longer wavelengths orange and red colors are left to be seen.

Bushfires are a constant threat during the summer months in Australia. The dry, hot weather and lightning strikes from thunderstorms can cause instant ignition. The nature of the plants also plays an important role. Some plants, such as eucalypts, burn very easily due to the oil in their leaves. In fact, many Australian plants are adapted to the presence of bushfires. The seed pods of some plants are opened by the intense heat of the fires, scattering the seeds onto the soil now fertilized by ash from the burnt bush. Photo taken on October 20, 2013.