Loyalist Township residents witness rare fire rainbow

Photo via Gail Batten

Several Loyalist Township residents were treated to an ultra-rare meteorological phenomenon colloquially known as a “fire rainbow” this weekend.

The fire rainbow, scientifically better known as a circumhorizontal arc, appeared in the sky over Bath and Odessa on the afternoon of Friday, Jun. 28, 2024.

Gail Batten lives on County Road 2, just east of Greater Napanee, in Loyalist Township.

According to her, the phenomenon was visible from her backyard at around 2 p.m., when she captured the accompanying photo.

Linda O’Connor also captured the phenomenon, at a different angle further south from the village of Bath.

Photo via Linda O’Connor

Fire rainbows are formed by the refraction of light in ice crystals in the atmosphere, requiring the ice crystals to be in a specific plate shape that occurs typically in cirrus clouds. Cirrus clouds are those clouds, high in the atmosphere, that are commonly described as “wispy”.

The appearance of a circumhorizontal arc requires that sunlight enter these specific hexagonally-shaped ice crystals at an angle of at least 58 degrees above the horizon while the ice crystals are parallel to the ground.

The sunlight is then refracted, as through a prism, creating the unique rainbow effect. The rainbow follows the wispy quality of the cirrus clouds, creating the fire-like effect.

The effect is usually short-lived. Friday’s fire rainbow lasted only about 20 minutes, Batten said.

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