January Sunset Retrospective.

Why does Sitka have so many great sunsets?”

“I don’t remember that many beautiful sunsets when I lived in Sitka.”

All during January I posted sunset pictures from Sitka on Facebook and I kept getting comments like the ones above.  Of the 31 days of January, 18 of them had sunsets worth photographing and posting.  And because Sitka is in a rain forest which often has overcast skies the question of “why” kept coming up.  I have a few theories.

Sitka has a lot of clouds, and clouds make for more interesting sunsets.  When the sun just drops into a clear sea there isn’t a lot of color UNLESS there is a lot of moisture in the air to reflect or refract light.  Sitka has a lot of moisture in the air.

Another reason is that during this time of year Sitka has long sunsets.  On January first there is an hour and 39 minutes between sunset and nautical twilight (when sun is 12 degrees below the horizon and the horizon and large objects are no longer discernable on a moonless night.)  Measured backwards from the point the sun drops below the horizon you could, conceivably have more than three hours of sunset.  During that period a lot of things can happen, sucker holes can open up and close again and clouds can rearrange themselves.  I took one of these pictures 1 hour and 33 minutes before sunset.  I took another an hour and 12 minutes after sunset.  On several evenings we have not really had a sunset worth photographing until a half hour after sunset.  On some days by the time the sun had actually set there was no color but a half hour earlier it was beautiful.  In January there is a long window to catch, enjoy and photograph the sunsets.  On some days this January, especially the 8th, 17th and 22nd the show lasted for hours.

In January the sun is particularly important to Alaskans because there is so little of it, and because the sunset time gallops forward with the lengthening days.  On January 1 the sunsets at 3:30 and the day is 6 hours, 50 minutes long, on January 27 the sun sets at 4:27 and is 8 hours 25 minutes long.   (For the record on the winter solstice the day is 6:42 minutes long and the sun sets at 3:20, standard time.  On the Summer Solstice the day is 17 hours 54 minutes long and sets at 10 PM, daylight time.)

Here are pictures of 33 January sunsets.  They represent 16 days (I posted January 6th and 9th but those days are not represented here.)  I tried to pick a variety of colors, angles and views.  I hope you enjoy them.

I took most of these pictures from the deck outside my living room, although because of the long sunset, somedays I drove around Sitka taking pics from town, Silver Bay or the National Park.  In the winter my house, which faces west southwest is perfect for catching sunsets.  I can see the ball drop from about the beginning of September to the end of March before the sunset moves too far north and is blocked by the mountains. 

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