A rainbow without rain

Today was a sunny, breezy day in Milwaukee.  But the sky looked so strange! 

Mostly this was due to many different types of clouds coexisting oddly in the same space.  Puffy, flat-bottomed cumulus clouds sailed like a scattered armada across the bright blue portions of the sky, but their peaceful progress was randomly punctuated with stuttered white skid marks.  To the west, thin wisps like veils draped alongside wavy-patterned cirrus clouds that recalled women’s marcelled “bob” hairstyles from the 1920s.  To the east the clouds were broad streaks; some resembled a watercolor wash, while others were opaque smears, like a thick coat of gesso applied with a palette knife.

And then, directly overhead, was this weird phenomenon: a large grayish cloud slightly blocking the sun and ringed by a rainbow “halo.”  I’d never seen anything like it before, so of course I had to whip out my trusty iPod Touch to snap some photos. 

Can you see the “rainbow”?  (Please excuse my fingers in the first picture 🙂 )

All I can figure is there must have been enough water in that one particular cloud to make the light refract.  Very strange, but then again, today’s sky was chock full of strange clouds.

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. My blog is a space for playing with ideas about creativity, innovation, lifelong learning, and the nature of "insight."
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2 Responses to A rainbow without rain

  1. Nice photos of the 22 degrees halo around the sun – produced not by water drops but by ice crystals as explained by M.G.J Minnaert in his wonderful book “Light and Color in the Outdoors”. He also tells that a practiced observer who is on the lookout all day long will be able to see on average one halo every four days!

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    • Wow, I didn’t know that. Every four days! And ice crystals. The atmosphere is an alien world to me, even though I suspect I pay more attention to the sky on an everyday basis than your average person. Thanks for the info!

      Like

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