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WEATHER U: In the pink on P.E.I.

The "colour of the rainbow"? Not all rainbows look alike.  Sandra and Robert King spotted this beauty just as the sun dipped below the horizon in Cumberland, P.E.I..  They say they had never seen one so big, so pink or so late in the evening.
The "colour of the rainbow"? Not all rainbows look alike. Sandra and Robert King spotted this beauty just as the sun dipped below the horizon in Cumberland, P.E.I.. They say they had never seen one so big, so pink or so late in the evening. - Contributed

We’ve had more than our share of showers. Earlier this week, I overheard someone say that the weather was “ugly” last weekend. Well, without showers, we wouldn’t have rainbows and they’re beautiful. 

We’ve all had the pleasure of witnessing a rainbow at one time or another. Last month, Sandra and Robert King saw what they believed was a rainbow until they had a closer look and noticed that Roy G Biv was missing. (That’s the acronym we use to remember the sequence of hues that commonly make up a rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. )

So, where did the pink come from?

It’s not unusual to see a pink sky at sunset. Because of the way sunlight is reflected in the atmosphere, many of our sunsets display stunning shades of orange and red. Early in the morning or late in the evening, the sun’s light 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.

But that’s not the only way light gets broken up.

Water droplets also cause light to scatter. Moisture in the air exposed to white light will create a set of coloured rings – the ones we find in a typical rainbow. Because this unique bow was spotted at 9 p.m., shortly after the sun had set, there was an absence of white light. Instead of breaking up into the full spectrum, the rainbow was formed with hues of red, pink and orange. 

The phenomenon is quite rare but there is no specific name for a pink rainbow. I wonder if you’d find a pot of “rose gold” at the end of it? 

By the way, Sandra and Robert also commented on the size of the pink bow and wondered why it was so big? I’ll tackle that one in an upcoming Weather University column.

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Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.


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