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Cloud iridescence - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

12/21/15, 13:15

Cloud iridescence
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cloud iridescence is the occurrence of colors in a cloud similar to those

seen in oil films on puddles, and is similar to irisation. It is a fairly
uncommon phenomenon, most often observed in altocumulus,[1]
cirrocumulus, lenticular clouds and cirrus clouds.[2][3][4] The colors are
usually pastel, but can be very vivid. Iridescence is generally produced
near the sun, with the sun's glare masking it, so it is more easily seen by
hiding the sun behind a tree or building. Other aids are dark glasses, or
observing the sky reflected in a convex mirror or in a pool of water.
Iridescent clouds are a diffraction phenomenon caused by small water
droplets or small ice crystals individually scattering light. Larger ice
crystals produce halos.
If parts of clouds have small droplets or crystals of similar size, their
cumulative effect is seen as colors. The cloud must be optically thin, so
that most rays encounter only a single droplet. Iridescence is therefore
mostly seen at cloud edges or in semi-transparent clouds, and newly
forming clouds produce the brightest and most colorful iridescence.
When a thin cloud has droplets of similar size over a large extent, the
iridescence takes on the structured form of a corona, a central bright disk
around the sun or moon surrounded by one or more colored rings. In one
instance a lunar corona was observed, with the iridescent cirrus cloud
1113.6 km (36,00045,000 ft) above the mean sea level at a
temperature of 70 C (94 F). The pure corona was 9.5 km (31,000 ft)

Iridescent mid altitude clouds

Cloud iridescence, seen above the sun

covered with grey clouds,
Pondicherry, India

above the mean sea level, at a temperature of 60 C (76 F).[5]

1 Gallery
2 See also
3 References
4 External links

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Cloud iridescence - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

12/21/15, 13:15


See also
Polar stratospheric cloud

1. Gedzelman, Stanley David (1 June 1988). "In Praise of Altocumulus". Weatherwise 41 (3): 143149.
2. Astronomy Picture of the Day (, over Boulder, Colorado
3. Iridescent Clouds - Atmospheric Optics site (

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Cloud iridescence - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

12/21/15, 13:15

4. Sassen, Kenneth (1 January 2003). "Cirrus cloud iridescence: a rare case study". Applied Optics 42 (3): 486.
Bibcode:2003ApOpt..42..486S. doi:10.1364/AO.42.000486.
5. Shaw, Joseph A.; Pust, Nathan J. (12 August 2011). "Icy wave-cloud lunar corona and cirrus iridescence". Applied
Optics 50 (28): F6. Bibcode:2011ApOpt..50F...6S. doi:10.1364/AO.50.0000F6.

External links
Iridescent cloud gallery - Atmospheric Optics site
On the Cause of Iridescence in Clouds
( - Scientific American

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