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CINDY DAY: A pot of pink gold?

Judy May of Humber Village, N.L, of an early morning rainbow in the Codroy Valley.
Judy May of Humber Village, N.L, of an early morning rainbow in the Codroy Valley. - Contributed

I might be starting to sound like a broken record --  some of you will have no idea what that means -- but I can’t repeat this enough: look up - there’s so much happening above you. 

Cindy Day
Cindy Day

Last week, I received a Facebook message from Judy May of Humber Village, N.L. Judy was “up and at ‘em” at the crack of dawn as the annual Breeding Bird Survey was getting started. She said it was hard not to notice the spectacular sunrise in the Codroy Valley that morning, but it wasn’t until she turned away from the rising sun that she spotted something she had never seen before: a pink rainbow. Judy described it as being opposite the sun. That’s exactly where you’ll always find a rainbow: in front of you when the sun is directly behind you.

But where was Roy G Biv? You know, the acronym that everyone uses to remember the sequence of hues that commonly make up a rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

A few days ago I discussed the spectrum of colours at sunset. Early in the morning or late in the evening the sunlight cuts through a much thicker slice of the atmosphere. The shorter wavelengths of light, the blues, violets and greens, are scattered, leaving reds, oranges and pinks.

Now that’s one piece of the puzzle. 

Water droplets in the air also cause light to break up. During the day, the sun’s white light is split and creates a coloured ring, the colours of the rainbow. Because Judy’s rainbow was very early in the day, there was an absence of white light. The reddish light interacted with the moisture in the air to produce a pink rainbow.

That morning, low on the horizon in the Codroy Valley, those two phenomena combined. Thank you for asking, Judy!

If you’re curious about something in the sky, take a photo and send it my way and I’ll do my best to explain it!  

Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.

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