A tourist took a spectacular photograph of a rainbow cloud, also called an iridescent cloud, while on vacation in Jamaica last week.
The colors in a rainbow cloud a similar to those you might see when oil floats on the surface of a puddle of water.
Beckie Bone was on vacation in Ocho Rios, a port town on Jamaica’s north coast, when she saw a curved, rainbow-colored cloud in the sky.
She took a photo and posted it on The Weather Channels Facebook page with the following comment:
“I looked up and saw this. Never seen it before in my life. Can u explain it?”
Beckie Bone’s photograph of a beautiful rainbow cloud. (Image: Facebook)
When you see a rainbow cloud, you know there are minute ice crystals or water droplets in the air.
When large crystals are present you get solar or lunar halos. However, the tiny water droplets or ice crystals diffract the light – spread it out – creating a rainbow-like effect in the cloud.
This uncommon phenomenon typically occurs in in altocumulus, cirrocumulus, lenticular clouds and cirrus clouds.
For the rainbow-effect to appear the cloud must be optically thin, so that most rays encounter just a single droplet. Iridescence is generally seen at cloud edges or semi-transparent clouds, and clouds that are being formed.
Beckie received several explanations, as well as invitations from journalists to share her story. (Image: facebook.com)
Rainbow clouds don’t predict earthquakes
Some cultures believe rainbow clouds appear as a warning that an earthquake is imminent.
Phil Plait wrote in Discover Magazine that such clouds are not physically related to Earth tremors in any way.
“In the case of these clouds, I can be nearly 100% certain they are unrelated to earthquakes. Why? Because these clouds are super common, so you could tie them to anything. I saw a rainbow cloud, and then stepped in dog poop! I saw a rainbow cloud, and then found a dollar in the street! I saw a rainbow cloud, and then there was an earthquake!”