Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cloud Iridescence

I photographed this on the 80W freeway back in early October, somewhere along the drive from Sacramento to San Francisco. This is actually a really dinky bit of iridescence, but that didn't prevent me from whipping out my camera and taking about fifteen photos.

But that's fine, because apparently iridescence isn't that common, and even rarer in cirrus clouds. Which, with my rudimentary cloud education, i.e., "Weather and Storms" at Stanford (I may have been the only person in the history of the school who thought that class was somewhat challenging...), I have determined the clouds below to be.



The iridescence is caused by small and similarly-sized water droplets or ice crystals individually scattering light. The clouds have to be optically thin so that most rays only encounter single droplets – thus, you're more likely to see this phenomenon at cloud edges or in newly formed baby cloudlings.

To compensate for my dinky iridescence, here are some epic photos:

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