LOOK: This Mind-Blowing ‘Rainbow Cloud’ Looks Like a Portal Into Another World

by Samantha Whidden

Late last week, an out-of-this-world event occurred when a “rainbow cloud” emerged over the city of Haikou City, Hainan in China. 

According to the New York Post, footage showed that the rainbow cloud (aka resplendent circle) was seen hovering above a dark cloud. The media outlet described the event as being like some sort of “cosmic shaved ice.” 

The Weather Network shared details about how a rainbow cloud comes to be. “The rapidly rising air in the updraft of a towering cumulus pushes against the cooler air above it, condensing the moisture right along the top of the updraft. The end result is a graceful pile donning its neighboring cloud like a cap.”

Earlier this month, Weather Channel meteorologist Jen Carfagno spoke to CBS News about the rainbow cloud. She noted that the cloud is actually “cloud iridescence,” which is an atmospheric optical phenomenon. This occurs when water droplets or ice crystals in the cloud diffract the light around the outside of the droplet. This is as opposed to bending the light through it.

“The colors of the spectrum are not as neat and organized in iridescence as in a rainbow,” she explained. “Cloud iridescence reminds me of pixie dust or unicorn sprinkles.” 

Carfagno went on to share that rainbow clouds are fairly rare. They are spotted near the polar regions, or in mountain areas in the winter. The clouds are needed to be near the sun as well. 

While speaking about rainbow cloud sighting in Northern Virginia, Carfagno explained, “In the cast from this week in Northern Virginia. What happened was that a pileup cloud, AKA a ‘cap cloud,’ formed on top of a late afternoon cumulonimbus cloud. This cap cloud is a common feature on top of strong thunderstorms.” 

Weather Channel Meteorologist Discusses the Differences Between Rainbow Clouds & Fire Rainbows 

While continuing to chat with CBS, Weather Channel meteorologist Jen Carfagno spoke about the differences between rainbow clouds and fire rainbows. Shunted that the difference is that the colors in a fire rainbow are considered more vivid than a rainbow cloud. 

Carfagno also said the rainbow cloud that was spotted over Virginia earlier this month was described by eyewitnesses as “psychedelic in color.” She further explained, “Cloud iridescence is not as uniform in color as is a regular rainbow or a halo or a circumhorizontal arc.”

Carfagno went on to discuss the ‘fire rainbow” seen in Vermont in 2018. The Weather Channel reported that the phenomenon is technically called a circumhorizontal arc. It occurs when the sun is very high in the sky. She said it has been higher than 58 degrees above the horizon. Its light is refracted by ice crystals that are suspended in the atmosphere.