The Washington Post

Wednesday’s magical, unforgettable sunset in Washington, D.C. (PHOTOS)

(Rich Pezzillo via Facebook)

Wednesday evening’s sunset went viral and was probably Washington, D.C.’s most photographed sky in history. It had it all: color, texture, strange cloud formations and was prefaced and followed-up by remarkable sky views.

We received more photo submissions for this sunset than we ever have before, numbering in the hundreds. Below, I feature those that stood out, although I’m inevitably leaving out some wonderful, worthy efforts. Thanks to all of you who posted photos on our Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr feeds as well as through email.

Setting the scene

Ahead of an incoming weather system, the sky was speckled with altocumulus clouds – like little cotton balls in the sky. The sprawling field of altocumulus painted what’s known as a “mackerel sky” – which, while not common, probably appears several times a year in our region.

(Architect of U.S. Capitol via Flickr)
(Architect of the Capitol via Flickr)

Silver Spring (Sharri Wolfgang)

(Gwen Wotring via Facebook)

Ashburn, Va. (Kelly Nelson via Facebook)


Sunset shots

As the setting sun intercepted the fields and streaks of clouds, it cast a stunning technicolor light on their forms and textures. As clouds were present in multiple layers, lower clouds projected shadows on higher clouds in some areas.

Up top I mentioned “strange” cloud formations.  I’m referring to the presence of a fallstreak hole or “punch hole cloud” evident in the top two images below. Wikipedia describes how these rare sky phenomena develop:

Such holes are formed when the water temperature in the clouds is below freezing but the water has not frozen yet due to the lack of ice nucleation particles (see supercooled water). When ice crystals do form it will set off a domino effect, due to the Bergeron process, causing the water droplets around the crystals to evaporate: this leaves a large, often circular, hole in the cloud.

(Jason Zmuda via Facebook)

(Kevin Wolf via Facebook)

From Silver Spring (Dan Lawrence via Flickr)

(John Sonderman via Flickr)
(Noe Todorovich via Flickr)
(Noe Todorovich via Flickr)

From P St., NW D.C. (Ian Livingston via Flickr)

From St. Leonard, Md. (Chrystal Oates via Facebook)

Swan Point, Md. (Linda Fitzgerald via Facebook)

(Andrew Martin via Facebook)

From Reston (Hess Photo via Facebook)

(Navin Sarma Photography via Flickr)




The After Show

In the wake of the sunset, a beautiful crescent moon rose and snuggled up close to Venus, shining brilliantly in southwestern sky.

Crescent Moon in post-sunset sky (Nancy Ostertag via Facebook)

Moon, Venus in post-sunset sky (Jason Zmuda via Facebook)

(Navin Sarma Photography via Flickr)

Crescent moon close-up (Kevin Wolf via Flickr)
Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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David Streit · November 7, 2013

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