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Did you see the “rainbow clouds” on Sunday? We explain cloud iridescence

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Happy Monday and welcome to another edition of the Beyond The Forecast newsletter! We’re coming off a beautiful weekend in the Commonwealth, which included reports of an uncommon sight in Sunday’s afternoon sky.

We received numerous photos from folks in the Roanoke Valley of “rainbow clouds.” The picture at the top of this newsletter is from Kelly Camden Guill in Bonsack.

Below, you’ll see a nice photo from WSLS’s Samantha Smith at Green Goat in Roanoke.

Another WSLS employee, Rafael Ibarra, passed along this gorgeous photo of Sunday’s pretty phenomenon. But what are we seeing here?

The vibrant colors you’re seeing in these photos are caused by cloud iridescence. The sun’s rays get scattered by small ice crystals or water droplets.

The clouds must be optically thin, due to the requirement that the light only encounters one crystal or droplet. Thus, you’ll typically see the soap bubble-like colors on the edge of cirrus clouds.

This phenomenon was named after Iris, the Greek goddess of rainbows. If you caught a photo yesterday, feel free to share it with us via email, social media or the Pin It feature on our weather app!

Switching gears to your forecast, it’s a gloomy and soggy day in Southwest and Central Virginia. Each day through Wednesday will feature a chance of showers and storms and possibly severe weather. We have a look at what you can expect this week in our daily forecast article.

You can always get specific forecast details for your zone, whether it’s the Roanoke Valley, Lynchburg area, the New River Valley or elsewhere around Southwest and Central Virginia, anytime at WSLS.com/weather. Know your zone!

If you prefer your weather information delivered by social media, you can follow Your Local Weather Authority on Facebook and Twitter.

You can also keep up with me on social media. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, follow along!

-- Justin McKee


About the Author:

Justin McKee presents the weather forecast on 10 News Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 to 8 a.m. He also fills in for other meteorologists during the week.