Weather Blog

Mt. Rainier puts on spectacular light show

Mt. Rainier puts on spectacular light show
Photo: Joseph G. Kelly, Grapeview, WA.
(Originally written Oct. 14, 2007)

Mt. Rainier has always been one of the crown jewels when it comes to the gorgeous scenery of the Pacific Northwest, but its beauty isn't limited to just a pretty face.

Western Washington was treated to a spectacular light show Wednesday morning, courtesy of the mountain and a neat optical trick that makes it look like the mountain is erupting, when if fact, it's just being a big wall.

What you're seeing in the photo is Mt. Rainier's shadow being cast across the northwestern sky. From about late November through late January, the sun is in just the right position in the southeastern sky at sunrise to create this effect.

As the sun rises just above the horizon, it has enough altitude to shine its light over most of the terrain and into the sky -- except for the 14,000+ foot wall we call Mount Rainier.

Thus, the mountain casts a tall shadow across the sky. As the sun rises farther, the effect diminishes. And as the sun's position tracks back to the north as we get past the winter solstice and into spring, it won't align to where we can see the shadow in the Puget Sound area.