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The sky turned a deep purple before Typhoon Hagibis hit the coast of Japan

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In the hours before the arrival of Typhoon Hagibis this past weekend, people in Japan shared beautiful images of the bright purple skies, a weather phenomenon often seen as a prediction of devastation to come.

As Japan prepared for what would be the country’s worst storm in 60 years, many knew the incredible colour of the sky was a sign often followed by a major storm.

A natural phenomenon called ‘scattering’, occurs when heavy rain ‘wash’ the atmosphere of larger particles, exposing the smaller particles to more light which is then scattered in all directions.

After Hurricane Michael in 2018, meteorologist Lauren Rautenkranz explained the science behind it in a short video, saying“As sunlight shines down to Earth, most of the colours of the spectrum are able to reach the surface uninterrupted.

“But the shorter wavelengths, blue and violet, are scattered in every direction. This light bounces from particle to particle until it eventually reaches your eyes. But the sky doesn’t appear violet and blue because of our eyes’ limitations.”

We can only see blue under normal circumstances because violet is the shortest wavelength in the color spectrum.

Referring to conditions surrounding Hurricane Michael, Rautenkrantz added: “This combination allowed our eyes to see (the sky’s) true colours, since violet is there to begin with, we just don’t usually get to see it.

“The light was scattered around the moisture in the air, causing the magical purple colour.”

The storm also prompted many high profile events – including Rugby World Cup matches – to be cancelled.

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued the highest alert level for 12 regions, with agency official Yasushi Kajihara saying: “Be ready for rainfall of the kind that you have never experienced.

“Damage from floods and landslides is likely taking place already.

“It is critical that people take action urgently to protect their lives and the lives of loved ones.”

The latest updates from Japan on Monday, October 14:

  • At least 42 dead, 15 missing, 198 injured, according to NHK news
  • At least 48 landslides and mud-flows in 12 regions
  • More than 40,000 homes still without electricity on Monday afternoon (local time) in the Greater Tokyo area and central regions.
  • Around 30,000 residents have been taken to evacuation shelters.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government will set up a special disaster team, including officials from various ministries, to deal with the fallout from the typhoon, including helping those in evacuation centers and boosting efforts to restore water and electricity to homes.

Mr Abe said: “Our response must be rapid and appropriate.”

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