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GRANDMA SAYS: A rainbow in the morning is the shepherds' warning

Brian Hay captured this rainbow with his camera near Granville Ferry, N.S.
Brian Hay captured this rainbow with his camera near Granville Ferry, N.S. - Contributed

Depending on how old you are, it might be ROY G. BIV or “right on your great big veranda.” Those are two fun ways that kids around the world are taught to remember the order of colours in the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Everything stops when someone spots a magnificent arc of coloured light in the sky. The first to really try to describe the rainbow was Aristotle. He thought the rainbow was caused by the reflection of sunlight in the clouds. Today we know the specifics.  Sunlight is reflected by raindrops. We see the sun’s light as “white light.” But in fact, it isn’t white at all: it’s many different colour wavelengths. The main colours it gives off are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet– the colours of the spectrum.

While the science behind the rainbow might be complicated, Grandma believed its message was fairly simple: “a rainbow in the morning is the shepherds warning; a rainbow at night is the shepherd’s delight.”

When you see sunshine while it’s raining, turn your back to the sun and that’s where you’ll find the rainbow and hopefully a pot of gold. If it’s morning, the sun will be in the east. With your back to the sun, you’ll be facing the rain shower in the western sky. Since most of our weather travels from west to east, that rain is moving in– the shepherd’s warning.

Conversely, if the sun shower is happening late in the day, the sun will be in the west. With your back to the sun, you’ll be facing the shower in the eastern sky. That way the shower will be on its way out– shepherd’s delight.

By the way, in case you plan on chasing that elusive pot of gold, you can never actually reach the end of the rainbow. As you move, the rainbow that your eyes see moves as well, because the raindrops are at different spots in the atmosphere. The rainbow, then, will always “move away” at the same rate that you are moving.

Read more Grandma Says columns

Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.

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