Rainbow clouds? Here’s what caused that rare sight in the Florida sky

Spectacular view technically known as cloud iridescence

Rainbow clouds spotted in Merritt Island Sunday.
Rainbow clouds spotted in Merritt Island Sunday. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando)

Clouds in Central Florida put on a show Sunday.

Many people in Brevard County posted photos to social media showing off cool-looking rainbow clouds. Photographer Greg Scott captured the colorful clouds and shared them with News 6.

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But what are they really?

According to News 6 meteorologist Troy Bridges, they are called cloud iridescence.

Rainbow cloud (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando)

“This is rare,” Bridges said. “Several factors need to be in place in order for this to happen. The recipe for iridescence: very thin clouds with lots of water droplets that happen to be the same size. Then the sun’s rays must pass through only a few droplets at a time. This usually happens as clouds are just developing. That’s what happened when these photos were taken.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says on its SciJinks website, “Cloud iridescence usually happens in altocumulus, cirrocumulus, lenticular and cirrus clouds. Iridescent clouds happen because of diffraction – a phenomenon that occurs when small water droplets or small ice crystals scatter the sun’s light.”

To learn more about rainbow clouds, click here. And if you saw rainbow clouds this weekend, be sure to share them using News 6 Pins.


About the Authors:

Stacy is a Social Media Producer for ClickOrlando.com and has been with News 6 since 2018. She graduated from the University of Florida with a B.S. in advertising and a Masters in social media/mass communications.

From chasing tornadoes and tracking the tropics, to forecasting ice storms and other dangerous weather, Troy Bridges has covered it all! Troy is an award-winning meteorologist who always prepares you for the day ahead on the News 6 Morning News.