Taken 2011-07-24 at 9:42 AM. Seen from the western edge of Magnolia, Mount Rainier appears to float above the Port of Seattle Cranes and Spokane Street Bridge. Itself dream-like, the sleeping giant's peak is shrouded in clouds, suggesting the titan dreams of past and future glory.
I had heard that the reason why Rainier and other tall mountains appear to float at a distance was due to refraction. The atmosphere becomes denser at lower altitudes, and thus in accordance with Snell's law of refraction the top of the mountain appears shifted much like something above water will appear shifted to an observer at the bottom of a pool. However what appears more likely is that it is due to Rayleigh scattering. The upper part of the mountain is white due to snow, the lower part darker, and just as the white of the moon shows through a blue sky but the shadows of the moon do not the dark colors of the base of a mountain are washed out by the blue of the sky due to the scattering of blue light. Consequently on clearer days when there is less scattering you may still see the base, albeit somewhat washed out by the blue. Likewise, the top of the mountain should appear to be in the same place whether you can see the base or not.
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Photo taken in Magnolia Boulevard, Magnolia Boulevard West, Seattle, WA 98199, USA
Misplaced? Suggest new location