Ask Storm Team 11: What is cloud iridescence?


Trent Snyder sent us video of cloud iridescence recently. This phenomenon makes it look like there are rainbow clouds in the sky. 

When sunlight interacts with ice crystals, rainbows can form. The type of rainbow depends on the size of the ice crystals.

Sunlight moving through large ice crystals can produce halos.

Light from the sun traveling through smaller ice crystals can create cloud iridescence.

Cloud iridescence is a rare sight since you need the right ingredients at the same time.

A lot of smaller ice crystals, or water droplets, is needed in the same size throughout the cloud. The cloud also need to be thin, in the mid or upper-levels of the atmosphere. When sunlight enter the small ice crystals, light diffracts. This creates the rainbow effect throughout the cloud. 

Ask Storm Team 11 your questions!

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