I’ve written off and on for decades about having seen the green flash, or not having seen it.
I once thought it was visible only over water and rarely then. Now I know it’s often seen over land too, including Georgia.
Well, often is relative. Seldom is probably more accurate. But once you’ve seen the green flash you can lord it over mere mortals who’ve not had the thrill of eyeballing that brief, bright burst when the sun sets.
The subject came back in a flash the other day when friends emailed an article about another columnist and his green flash angst.
The writer, Jonathan Whittle, is upset and, having never seen it, skeptical.
“I’ve found that most folks who claim to have experienced this elusive event have done so during or right after happy hour,” Whittle whines. That is true, true and unrelated.
Scientific evidence indicates that the green flash does not appear just to mess with the brains of us humans, whether we are happy or not, buzzed, sun-baked or not. I’ve tried it in some of those situations, peering at the horizon, thinking green thoughts.
Usually nobody where we’re watching sees it. That’s OK, unless some showoff down the beach yells, “There it is, see?”
By the time we shout back, “Where, where?” it’s gone, leaving the wise guy to gloat.
We believe in the flash because we have seen it, several times, sometimes as a full-blown flash, other times merely a green smudge. So for us, its existence is settled science.
Researching this cheeky phenomenon, I discovered that some scientist(s) at Georgia State University confirm it and even explain it.
Yet skeptics persist. We know of people who believe the Cubs will win the World Series this year, yet deny the green flash its place in, on or above the sunset. Some people swear that professional wrestling is real, yet scoff at this simple refraction and scattering of light.
Experts say this light refraction happens as often as twice every thirty sunsets, but to see it, conditions must be just so.
We read in a Crystal Cruises newsletter that, “The green flash can occur at sunrise as well as sunset.” Who knew?
In Norway, the green flash in midsummer can last as long as fourteen minutes — seven minutes during the slow sunset and another seven minutes at the sunrise.
The longest green flash on record was in 1929, reported by Admiral Byrd’s expedition in Antarctica. It lasted, on and off, for about 35 minutes.
We settle for more modest green flashes when we get to watch sunset from someone’s boat or from the waterfront home of friends.
The green flash is fascinating to humans because it feeds our competitive instincts, as in, “What? You’ve never seen it? Really. I feel your pain, bro.”
Maybe you’re trying too hard. Try just relaxing, maybe with a cool adult beverage. Or, how about just some positive thoughts about things that are green?
Start with green tea, green beer, the green, green grass of home or, in a pinch, Soylent Green.
Or maybe green energy, like from Solyndra. See? At least a day without the green flash is better than a day without sunshine. Or sunset.