Technology

Purple haze, don’t know why? Here’s the science behind the colourful fog seen in B.C.’s Okanagan

Some residents of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley were briefly enveloped in shades of pink and purple this morning.

In Kelowna, a pink-hued fog appeared for several minutes shortly after 7:30 a.m. PT before returning to the more standard grey.

“I thought, ‘OK, what’s going on out there?'” said Lise Guyot of her reaction when she saw the world turn pink through her window, before she snapped some photos.

“It looked surreal.”

The pink fog appeared in parts of the Okanagan Valley at about 7:30 a.m. PT on Wednesday. (Lise Guyot)

In Penticton, about 60 kilometres south, the fog started out as purple at around 7:15 a.m. before changing to pink and later blue, according to resident Dana Coates, who took a photo of the colourful sky over Okanagan Lake.

Residents of Summerland and other nearby communities also reported seeing the same.

Guyot said her photos show exactly what the fog looked like in real life — no filter. While she’s used to pink skies from sunrises and sunsets, she says being surrounded by a pink fog was an entirely different experience.

Overall, she said, it lasted somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes, rising up into the sky then coming down around her again before dissipating into a normal grey.

pink fog
CBC Kelowna producer Jay Bertagnolli took this photo of a pink fog that he says lasted about five minutes before going back to grey. Elsewhere in the city, the fog appeared to last several minutes longer. (Jay Bertagnolli)

CBC science specialist Darius Mahdavi said while it’s not unheard of, pink fog is “an incredibly rare phenomenon.”

Purple fog over a lake.
Dana Coates took this photo from a deck overlooking Okanagan Lake. (Dana Coates)

It appears for the same reason the sky changes colour at sunrise or sunset, he explained.

“When sunlight has to pass through more layers of atmosphere — or in this case, the suspended water droplets that make up the fog — some of the colours, especially the blues, get scattered out, leaving the reds and oranges and pinks to reach your eyes,” he said. 

A city street shrouded in a pink hue.
Bertagnolli says the photos he captured look exactly as they did in real life. (Jay Bertagnolli/CBC)

“But the conditions have to be just right and are near impossible to predict, so it’s really a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

“You can also quote me as saying that it’s an incredible sight and I’m very jealous. ‘Cause I am,” he added.

Guyot said she learned from her photographer father the importance of capturing a moment like the pink fog as soon as possible because of how quickly it can disappear.

“It’s just that moment: Sometimes you get lucky,” she said.

Pink fog over a treeline.
Lise Guyot said the fog rose from the ground into the treeline and then came down again, before changing back to grey. (Lise Guyot)

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