Maui's Green Flash: Fact or Fiction?

As many gather on Maui’s beaches at sunset, the discussion inevitably gets around to “have you ever seen the green flash”? Dry air, long flat distances between the viewer and the Sun, and warm water below cooler air makes Maui “Green Flash” heaven. My standard answer about seeing one usually revolves around how far I am into my martini at the time of sunsetting.But here is the real story!A green flash is suppose to happen just as the sun sets, for a second or two as the top of the sunny globe slips silently into the sea. Just a few, special few, have seen the Green Flash!No, the legend of the green flash did not start with a comic book adventure. It did, however, start with Jules Verne in his novel 1882 “Le Rayon Vert” or “The Green Ray”. As Verne would describe it: “a most wonderful green, a green which no artist could obtain on his palette, a green of which neither the varied tints of vegetation nor the shades of the most limpid sea could ever produce the like! If there is a green in Paradise, it cannot but be of this shade, which most surely is the true green of Hope.”That does it. As soon as I can capture this green palette, I’m going to make some paint up and market it as Maui’s “Green Flash” paint.But Verne does even better. A character of his claims the Scottish has a legend that whoever sees a green flash will “not err in the matters of the heart”. Ah, that explains why so many marry in Maui. I wonder if anybody has done a study of the ratio of Maui marriages to divorces vs. say Las Vegas weddings? Maybe Britney Spears should have gotten Mauied?After 1882, lots of green-flash sightings occurred. Some scientists theorized that the green flash was really taking place in the eyes of the viewer. My martini “green flash” simulator supports that theory. They claim one can stare at a rip tomato in a bright room and then if you look at a white surface you will see green. Or a potato. Now, go try that with one, two and then three martinis and report back what you see after each experiment. I did. I saw dark green, bright green and black.Experienced green flash observers said that the tomato test was not valid. They said that the green flash could also be seen at sunrise and produced pictures to prove it. Bull ditty I say. Those “experienced” observers were just drinking martinis at sunrise.The truth is the twin optical effects of refraction and dispersion are at work to cause the green flash. These are the same techniques to can use to explain your way out of a driving ticket after sunset. “Officer, I was just…”The refraction occurs and is greatest when the sun sets, the air acts as a prism spreading the the light into its component colors thus creating a blue-green fringe on the top. The green flash is even better when the atmosphere is clear with low humidity. Look for a day when the sun is bright and yellow-white as it is low in the sky.Don’t look at it with binoculars directly or you will burn your eyes. Wait until the bottom of the Sun has already started setting and you can look at the Sun without pain.In Maui where the water temperature at sunset is warmer than the air above it helps produce a mirage causing the green edge of the Sun to merge with the reflected “mirage” image and providing an enlarged combination. Watch for slices of the Sun coming our from the sides to get ready for the “Green Flash”!Cheers.

One thought on “Maui's Green Flash: Fact or Fiction?

  1. I have been to Hawaii several times and I have heard of the Green Flash and stories of people who have seen it but yet, the numerous times i have set foot on the islands of Hawaii, I have yet to see this Green Flash. I can probably agree with you that the martini would probably aid me in seeing such an activity so i will consider having one the next trip I take to the Islands of Hawaii.

Leave a Reply