Fire rainbows are a rare atmospheric optical phenomenon that can captivate anyone’s attention. Also known as circumhorizontal arcs, these colourful displays are often mistaken for rainbows due to their rainbow-like appearance. Fire rainbows have a unique shape and colour scheme, making them stand out from other atmospheric events. This article will explore the science behind the fire rainbow phenomenon and what causes it to occur.
What are Fire Rainbows?
Fire rainbows are an optical phenomenon that occurs in the Earth’s atmosphere. They are formed by the refraction and dispersion of sunlight passing through hexagonal ice crystals in high-altitude cirrus clouds. When light enters the ice crystal at a specific angle, it is refracted and dispersed into its constituent colours, producing a spectrum of colours that resemble a rainbow.
What do Fire Rainbows look like?
Fire rainbows have a distinctive shape and colour scheme, making them stand out from other atmospheric phenomena. They are often mistaken for rainbows due to their rainbow-like appearance but they have completely different shapes. Fire rainbows are elongated, horizontally arched formations that span the width of the sky. The colours of a fire rainbow are also different from those of a traditional rainbow. The colours of a fire rainbow are ordered from red at the top to orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet at the bottom.
When and where can you see Fire Rainbows?
Fire rainbows are a rare atmospheric event requiring specific weather conditions. They are typically seen in the summertime when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. Fire rainbows are more commonly observed in the tropics and subtropics due to the prevalence of high-altitude cirrus clouds in these regions. However, they can also be seen in other parts of the world under the right conditions.
How do Fire Rainbows form?
Fire rainbows form when sunlight enters hexagonal ice crystals in high-altitude cirrus clouds at a specific angle. The sunlight is refracted and dispersed into its constituent colours, producing a spectrum of colours that resemble a rainbow. The angle at which the sunlight enters the ice crystal is important because it determines the angle at which the colours are dispersed. The angle of the sun must also be at least 58 degrees above the horizon for the phenomenon to occur.
Why are Fire Rainbows rare?
Fire rainbows are a rare atmospheric event because they require specific weather conditions to occur. They are only seen in regions where high-altitude cirrus clouds are prevalent, and the angle of the sun must be at least 58 degrees above the horizon. Even in regions with ideal conditions, fire rainbows are still relatively rare because they only occur when the sun is at its highest point in the sky.
What other Atmospheric Phenomena can be mistaken for Fire Rainbows?
Several other atmospheric phenomena can be mistaken for fire rainbows. One such phenomenon is a circumzenithal arc, which is a similar rainbow-like formation that appears at a higher angle in the sky. Another atmospheric phenomenon that can be mistaken for a fire rainbow is a sundog, a bright spot on either side of the sun.
What is the scientific explanation behind Fire Rainbows?
The scientific explanation behind fire rainbows is the refraction and dispersion of sunlight passing through hexagonal ice crystals in high-altitude cirrus clouds. The hexagonal shape of the ice crystals causes the sunlight to refract and disperse into its constituent colours, producing a spectrum of colours that resemble a rainbow.
What is the Significance of Fire Rainbows?
Fire rainbows are a beautiful natural display that holds a significant cultural and spiritual significance in various communities worldwide. In some cultures, fire rainbows are considered a symbol of good luck, prosperity, and divine intervention. For example, in Hawaiian culture, fire rainbows are known as ‘Specter of the Brocken’ and are considered a divine sign of blessings from the gods. Fire rainbows have also been associated with the LGBT community, as their rainbow-like colours are representative of the pride flag. Furthermore, the beauty and rarity of fire rainbows make them a popular subject for photography and art, further adding to their cultural significance. Overall, fire rainbows hold a unique place in the hearts and minds of people worldwide, making them a cherished natural phenomenon.