Sundogs and Double Rainbows

The sky lately has featured some amazing sights, from red sunrises to double rainbows. There's one rare sight in the sky called a sundog and meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick shows you what it is and how it's formed.

We’ve seen some active weather the past couple of week and with that comes some interesting sights in the sky.  Rhonda bush from my old stomping grounds of Gallia County, Ohio sent me this question:  "While vacationing in Ocean City, Maryland this past summer, we saw a cloud in the sky that was rainbow colored. I have never seen anything like it, nor had anyone else on the beach that day. The sky was blue and the sun was shining with no rain prior to or after. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. It was there for quite awhile and then just slowly disappeared.  I am very curious about what this cloud is called and how it occurs." 


Rhonda I think I know what you saw.  And it's called a sundog.  Recently one was sighted near Charleston and one of our e-reporters captured a photo of it.  Patty Moles of Dunbar, WV took this shot below.


You can see the rainbow colors in the cirrus clouds.  They’re formed as sunlight is refracted or bent by the ice crystal clouds and this shows the colors of the spectrum much like a rainbow is formed.  Usually you'll see these brightly colored spots on each side of the sun.  Since they're usually formed when cirrus clouds are in the sky, don't be surprised if the weather changes a day or two after seeing a sundog.


We've also see many rainbows recently and several double rainbows.  Below is a picture of a double rainbow taken locally a couple weeks ago.



Basically the sunlight gets reflected twice inside the raindrops and if you look closely, the colors on the outer band are reversed from the main rainbow.  The angle of the sun was just perfect to cast this double rainbow.  Talk about right time, right place!  Most rainbows are seen in the late afternoon or evening.  That's because the angle of the sun is lower and is able to shine through the rain just right to cause a rainbow.  Sometimes you can see a rainbow in the morning.  But those are the most rare.


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