Rainbow season is upon us: Here are a few types you could see

St. Patrick’s Day marks first day of colorful phenomenon

$1.22 million: The market value of a leprechaun's pot of gold, which contains 1,000 gold coins weighing one ounce each
$1.22 million: The market value of a leprechaun's pot of gold, which contains 1,000 gold coins weighing one ounce each (iStock/jgroup)

Irish folklore says if someone catches a leprechaun they can force him to tell where their pot o’ gold is. No one has ever found the pot of riches, but over the years the story told reveals that gold is at the end of a rainbow.

Though finding gold would be nice, spotting a rainbow is still a treat. Here’s a few different types you could see.

$1.22 million: The market value of a leprechaun's pot of gold, which contains 1,000 gold coins weighing one ounce each (iStock/jgroup)

While there is no rain in our local forecast to form this magical bow of color in the sky, there are other opportunities to see a rainbow. Seeing them can make someone feel rich without changing the amount in the bank.

Classic Rainbow

During any shower or storm that forms in Central Florida, or anywhere for that matter, the sunlight is refracted through the water to make the lovely array of colors.

Rainbow seen with a bolt of lightning in an August summer storm in Clermont, Florida. Photographed by News 6 Meteorologist Samara Cokinos. (Copyright 2020 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Depending on what angle you see the rainbow can determine how much of the bow is seen. Sometimes it’s even just a little sliver spotted through part of a cloud.

Did you know if you were flying or at a high altitude above the rainbow and looked down, you might be lucky enough to see the rainbow appear full circle? Normally, only part of the rainbow can be seen due to the horizon.

Double Rainbow

A double rainbow over Central Florida after Hurricane Irma hit the area. Image courtesy of News 6 viewer Mireille Khoury.

Sometimes when looking into the sky there may appear to be two rainbows. Taking a closer look would reveal the second rainbow is actually inverted. This is because the light from the sun is bent twice. The vibrant inner rainbow is the primary one. The second, fainter bow will form on the outside of the primary bow when the light goes back into the air and is bent a second time. Because it has gone through the process again it will be fainter. A look even closer will reveal the inner color which is usually violet will be red.


These bows are typically white and some people call them ghost rainbows.

They form much like regular rainbows, but in the smaller liquid drops that are found inside the fog. The droplets are so small that they don’t produce many colors and often are just seen as white.

They can be seen when the sun is bright and shines through the fog. Remember this happens opposite of the sun. Look for them in shallow fog or sometimes they form over the ocean.


A lunar rainbow can happen, but it’s rare.

In order for this to happen the moon needs to be low in the sky, about 42 degrees above the horizon, and there needs to be water droplets in the air opposite of it.

Due to the lack of light reflected from the surface of the moon, these bows often are faint or even appear white. However, in long exposure pictures, some color is apparent.

Want to see a moonbow? There are a few places where these occur a little more frequently than they would in your backyard. Yosemite National Park in California is one along with Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Kentucky. If your vacation lands in Victoria Falls on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe and Waimea in Hawaii they can be seen more frequently there too.

Why here? They’re formed by the mist from the falls in these areas making them still a rare sight to see, but one that won’t be forgotten if given the chance to see it.

Monochrome Rainbow

Monochrome rainbow featured on EarthSky over New Mexico. (EarthSky)

Ever see a red rainbow? Not red in the rainbow, but an actual red rainbow? It can happen and it’s rare.

It’s formed just like a regular rainbow, but the sun is low on the horizon during sunrise or sunset. The lower the sun is, the longer the light has to travel through the horizon which means shorter wave colors like blue, yellow and green are scattered more. This leaves behind the red and gives the red rainbow appearance.

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