The fabled green flash

Plus some info on cross-country skiing and tree aloes

The ethereal green flash in action
  • The ethereal green flash in action
  • By ESO/G. Lombardi

Cross-Country Skiers are in for a short-lived treat late this month through February if winter storms intense enough to drop several inches to two feet of snow hit San Diego County’s higher mountains. As the clouds are clearing, you may be able to take advantage of good skiing conditions along Highway 79 through Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and along Sunrise Highway through the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. More limited opportunities for cross-country skiing may briefly exist on Palomar Mountain. Farther north in Southern California and higher in elevation, the forested crests of the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and San Jacinto Mountains offer more dependably good snow conditions.

The Fabled “Green Flash” at sunset or sunrise can sometimes be seen on crystal-clear days in December and January. At the instant the sun’s upper rim is last visible at sunset, and also at the instant when it is first seen at sunrise, a flash of emerald-green color may be observed, especially on a flat horizon. Physicists explain this peculiar phenomenon as due to color dispersion (as in a prism) and scattering of sunlight through the Earth’s atmosphere. Binoculars (or a small telescope) are helpful in spotting it. For green-flash hunting at sunset, any site with a view of the ocean horizon suffices. For the sunrise green flash, any spot overlooking the low desert (Sunrise Highway in the Laguna Mountains, for example) is good.

Tree Aloes, the familiar succulent plants with red-hot-poker-like flower clusters, are at their showy best this month. Large clumps of aloes can be seen at La Jolla Cove, Mission San Diego de Alcalá, and scattered along the embankments overlooking Highway 163 in Balboa Park.

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