Unusual 'rainbow cloud' spotted in South Shields as weather conditions create 'cloud iridescence'

This beautiful ‘rainbow cloud’ was captured in the autumn sky by an eagle-eyed Gazette reader.

Thursday, 28th October 2021, 12:09 pm

The gorgeous weather formation was spotted by John Rumney in the sky over Crossgate in South Shields.

"It was quite amazing,” he said. “I’m 57 years old, and I’ve never seen anything like that.”

The rainbow formation appears to be an example of an unusual meteorological phenomenon known as ‘cloud iridescence’.

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A 'rainbow cloud', thought to be cloud iridescence, captured on camera by John Rumney.

According to the Met Office, this is caused by light refracting through ice crystals in high-level cumulus clouds in proximity to the sun or moon.

They occur in a similar way to rainbows, which are formed when sunlight passes through raindrops in the sky and the light is split into the colors.

Cloud iridescence is more rare, as the cloud must be thin and have lots of water droplets or ice crystals of about the same size.

When that happens, the sun's rays encounter just a few droplets at at time, scattering the sun’s light.

A 'rainbow cloud', thought to be cloud iridescence, captured on camera by John Rumney.

This is most likely to happen semi-transparent clouds or clouds that are just forming.

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