The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

D.C.’s final winter sunset before 5 p.m. Wednesday was a winner

It was a sight to see, full of color and texture

At the University of Maryland on Wednesday. (Laurent Montesi/Facebook)
2 min

Washington witnessed the winter’s final sunset before 5 p.m. Wednesday, and it was a sight to see, full of color and texture.

As the sky lit up, so did our social media feeds.

“Early contender for best DC sunset of 2023,” wrote Billy West, sharing a stunning sky shot from the Palisades in Northwest Washington.

While it’s only the first week of the year, and the sunset competition is just underway, Wednesday’s stunner offered many reasons to look up. The sky was filled with orange and purple light, a soft glow and long, bumpy clouds extending for miles.

The extraordinary sunset unfolded after predicted rain and storms didn’t show in most areas, so perhaps the sky felt the need to make up for it. But there were enough raindrops to give eastern parts of the area a nice view of a late-day rainbow. The image below was captured in Annapolis.

Across the rest of the area, several layers of clouds draped overhead, from just a few thousand feet up to a deck around 20,000 feet aloft. It was that high cloud deck that lit up dramatically.

The lower clouds fractured just as the sun started to descend. In some cases, they helped frame the scene.

Wednesday’s sunset was the last one of the season to occur before 5 p.m., and Thursday’s will be the first at 5 p.m. or later since Nov. 8. The Washington region has now gained 15 minutes of evening light from the low point in early December. Thursday morning’s was also the latest sunrise of the winter as days gain light after the winter solstice.

By the end of January, the sun will set at 5:28 p.m. in Washington. We gain another half-hour of evening light in February before the “spring forward” daylight saving time change in mid-March.

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