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Weather Academy: Rainbows!

Published: May. 2, 2022 at 5:53 AM CDT
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - We’re talking about rainbows on the Weather Academy this week! Let’s dive into how they form and the ingredients you need to see them.

Rainbows aren’t actually a real thing because they don’t exist in one particular place. They’re an optical phenomenon that occurs whenever sunlight and atmospheric conditions are just right. The first thing we need for a rainbow to form is a rain droplet. And it’s worth mentioning that rain droplets have a flat base, and they look more like hamburger buns instead of teardrops. As the sunlight interacts with the water droplet, the light bends as it slows down a bit, going from the air to the denser water, it reflects off the inside of the rain droplet. And as it does, this separates it into the different wavelengths or what we see as the different colors. As the light exits out of the rain droplet, we see the rainbow form from the rain.

To see the rainbow, you have to have different ingredients in play. The viewer of the rainbow must be between the sun and the falling rain. Usually, you need it to be within a few hours of sunrise or sunset because you need the angle between you and the sun to be less than 42 degrees. Now usually, that rainbow will appear on the opposite side of the sun because it’s reflecting out of those rain droplets back towards you, so you see that rainbow effect. To see brighter rainbows, we need larger ring droplets. Usually, the very faint rainbows have smaller droplets.

I hope this helped you learn a little bit about how rainbows form from water droplets in the sunlight and what different ingredients you need to see them. Next week, make sure to tune in as we talk more about different weather phenomena.

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