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

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

In Kelowna, pink-colored fog appeared for several minutes shortly after 7:30 a.m. Pacific Time before returning to the more standard gray.

“I was like, ‘OK, what’s going on over there?'” Lise Guyot said of her reaction when she saw the world turn pink through her window, before taking some pictures.

“It seemed surreal.”

Trees under a pink sky.
The pink fog appeared in parts of the Okanagan Valley around 7:30 a.m. PT on Wednesday. (Lise Guyot)

In Penticton, about 60 kilometers to the south, the fog started purple around 7:15 a.m. before turning pink and then blue, according to resident Dana Coates, who took a photo of the colorful sky above Okanagan Lake.

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

Guyot said his photos showed exactly what fog looked like in real life – without filters. Although she’s used to the pink skies of sunrises and sunsets, she says being surrounded by pink fog was a totally different experience.

In total, she said, it lasted between 10 and 15 minutes, rising into the sky and then descending around her before dissipating to a normal gray.

pink tooth
CBC Kelowna producer Jay Bertagnolli took this photo of a pink fog that he said lasted about five minutes before turning gray again. Elsewhere in the city, the fog seems to last for several more minutes. (Jay Bertagnolli)

CBC science expert Darius Mahdavi said that while not uncommon, pink fog is “an incredibly rare phenomenon.”

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

It seems that for the same reason the sky changes color at sunrise or sunset, he explained.

“When sunlight has to pass through multiple layers of atmosphere – or in this case, the suspended water droplets that make up fog – some colors, particularly blues, disperse, leaving reds, oranges and roses reach your eyes,” he said.

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

“But conditions have to be perfect and are almost impossible to predict, so it’s really about being in the right place at the right time.

“You can also quote me saying it’s an amazing show and I’m very jealous. Because I am,” he added.

Guyot said she learned from her photographer father the importance of capturing a moment like the pink fog as early 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 explained that the fog rose from the ground to the tree line, then descended, before turning gray again. (Lise Guyot)

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