News Columns & Blogs

Dramatic sunset has southwest Kansas buzzing

Kansans are used to beautiful sunsets – it’s one of the characteristics that help define the Sunflower State.

But the show Mother Nature put on last Thursday night in southwest Kansas had even veteran sky watchers in awe.

There was a horizon-to-horizon rainbow to the northeast, a “sun pillar” to the northwest, and “virga” – wisps of precipitation (such as snow or ice) streaming down from a cloud but evaporating before reaching the ground.

“I’ve never seen one – a full rainbow” in December in southwest Kansas, said Jeff Hutton, warning coordination meteorologist for the Dodge City branch of the National Weather Service.

“It was spectacular,” he said. “I sat out there watching, my jaw dropped to the ground.”

Mike Umscheid, a meteorologist with the weather service in Dodge, shared a few shots he took of the celestial extravaganza.

The ground-to-ground rainbow is rare, Hutton said, because there are usually clouds obscuring at least part of the rings – and because the combination of factors that created the rainbow and other phenomena are not common for December in that part of the state.

“The colors were so brilliant,” he said. “My cellphone was just ringing, ‘Wow! Do you see that?’” That caught a lot of people’s attention.”

Readers from southwest Kansas: if you captured photos of the sunset and rainbow, send them to me at I’d love to put together a gallery of photos from Thursday’s sunset.