The Sunrise and the Sunset

Nayabimarsha (Weekly Newspaper from Nepal)

Even though the Bible is not a scientific book it does however give us some guidance and insights into scientific concerns. One example of this is the old adage “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning”. This proverb is taken from the words of the Lord Jesus Christ to the religious Pharisees’s and Sadducees’s in the book of Matthew chapter 16 verses 2,3 states “He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” The Pharisees and Sadducees were asking questions about the future and whether Jesus Christ truly was God, so Jesus rebuked them by saying you can understand the weather around you but you cannot understand what I am telling you.

In order to understand why the saying “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning” can predict the weather, we must understand more about the weather and the colours in the sky. Two factors that contribute to the truthfulness of this saying are firstly, that weather systems generally travel from west to east in the mid latitudes and secondly, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. This means storm systems generally move in from the west and travel east. The colours we see in the sky are due to the rays of sunlight being split into coloursof the spectrum as they pass through the atmosphere and ricochet off the water vapor and particles in the atmosphere. A red sky suggests an atmosphere loaded with dust and moisture particles. The reddish colours results from scattering of sunlight by suspended particles and aerosols in the atmosphere. The suns rays pass through a greater length of atmosphere at sunrise and sunset than at any other time of day. In addition, aerosol, dirt, and dust concentrations are maximized in the lowest layers of the atmosphere when the atmosphere is dominated by sinking air (high pressure). Therefore, when under high pressure we can see vivid red sunsets and sunrises.

Thus, a rising sun in advance of an approaching weather system would illuminate the approaching mid- and high-level clouds to create a red sky. A morning sky that is a deep, fiery red can indicate that there is high water content in the atmosphere. So, rain could be on its way. Alternatively, if the sun is setting as a weather system exits and high pressure is building and stable air is coming from the west, then the departing clouds would be illuminated. This would create a red sky at night with fair weather to follow.

All these truths help people who believe the Bible to understand the world around them. Just like when God promised there will always be a seed time and a harvest time until his return. Even though the climate seems to be rising it will never rise to such an extent that the seed time and harvest time cease to happen. These truths show us another facet of the goodness of God. He doesn’t want people to be scared or fearful for the future but to trust in his word and rest upon his promises. In the Old Testament book of 1 Chronicles 16 verse 34, it says “O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.” What a wonderful truth to comfort the hearts of all who believe in the true and living God.

P Pilgrim

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