Bright green skies light up South Dakota amid severe thunderstorms

Digital WritersThe Weather Network
Digital Writers

Severe storms swept through South Dakota on Tuesday, bringing heavy rain, large hail, powerful winds, and eerie bright green skies.


A severe thunderstorm threat covered millions across the U.S. Midwest on Tuesday, but in South Dakota in particular, it was the skies that captivated onlookers. That's as a derecho scraped across the state, leaving a bright green hue through the late afternoon hours.

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Social media erupted with photos of the eerie green skies that covered the South Dakota hub of Sioux Falls. They were even referred to as a "ground level Aurora" by some on Twitter.



Most people think that when skies turn green it means there will be a tornado, or lots of hail, and while these are both possible, green skies are really just the visual effects of light scattering through water droplets within a storm cloud.

"Thunderstorms usually occur during the late afternoon or early evening hours near peak daytime heating, this is also when the sun's angle begins to get lower on the horizon and we begin to see the orange and red evening skies," explains Kelly Sonnenburg, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. "The red light from the sun setting passes through the blue-ish or opaque white looking water and ice droplets within the storm cloud, giving the stormy skies a green-ish looking glow."

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The more hail, ice and water droplets within the storm cloud, the more likely the sky is to turn green -- this is why most people associate green looking skies with the onset of hail. Severe storms with significant hail can also sometimes produce tornadoes, which is why some people link the emerald skies with tornadoes as well.

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Meteorologists are still investigating this phenomena to fully understand this atmospheric science even further.

Here's a closer look at Tuesday's green skies that captivated thousands.


Thumbnail image courtesy: @jkarmill/Twitter