Double rainbows: Here's what they mean

News 6 meteorologist Candace Campos details weather icons


ORLANDO, Fla. – Rainbows in Central Florida are a common occurrence.

The combination of rain in one location and sunshine in the other allows for this colorful light phenomenon in the sky. But have you noticed not all rainbows are alike?

A rainbow is caused by the refraction or dispersion of sunlight through rain or other water droplets, like thin clouds, suspended in the air. These small droplets act as a prism, separating a spectrum of light and colors that can streak across the horizon. 

Rainbows can take on different characteristics. Some arch miles through the sky, while others remain high above, bridging from cloud to cloud. 

There is even an optical phenomenon called a halo, in which a rainbow seems to encircle the sun. This occurs when the sunlight refracts through a very thin layer of high clouds made up of tiny ice crystals. 

Double rainbows can be thought of like a double optical illusion. If the primary rainbow is extra bright, a secondary, usually dimmer, rainbow can be seen nearby.

Think of this second rainbow as a reflection of its original, like it's looking into a mirror. The next time you observe a double rainbow, check out the color pattern. The secondary rainbow has the same colors, but the pattern is flipped.

The best time of the day to spot these optical illusions is during the early morning or late afternoon.

And in case you’re wondering, double the rainbows doesn’t also mean double the pot of gold. 

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