Iridescent Clouds


I borrowed this clip from Out of a Great Need the other day and posted it on Facebook with this note:

“I love Maya Angelou. I met her on a bus when I was a student at MSU. As soon as I boarded she motioned for me to come sit with her. I didn’t realize until years later who it was who spoke to me with such wisdom and caring. She has been one of the rainbows in my clouds.”

Then yesterday the hub and I saw two “rainbow clouds” when we were at the Farmers Market.

The hub commented, “I didn’t know God was psychedelic.”

“Apparently He is.”

I unloaded my stuff onto the hub so I could snap pictures with my phone.

The pics I took didn’t do them justice, but the clouds we saw looked a lot like the one in this photo – which I snagged from


According to, spotting them is rare:

Like common cloud-to-ground rainbows, iridescent clouds usually accompany thunderstorms. According to atmospheric phenomena expert Les Cowley, they often appear in the late afternoon, on very hot and humid days. This stems from the fact that most rainbow clouds form on top of cumulus clouds—the fluffy cotton-ball-shaped clouds we often see in children’s drawings.

“What happens is that the cumulus cloud, boiling upwards, pushes the air layers above it higher and higher,” Cowley explained. “As the air gets pushed upwards, it expands and cools. And sometimes moisture in that air suddenly condenses into tiny droplets to form a cap cloud.”

This “cap”—which scientists call a “pileus”—is the source of the brilliant spectacle.

“The droplets in the cap cloud scatter sunlight to form the gorgeous colors,” Cowley said.

Though the ingredients for rainbow clouds seem simple, they’re not spotted often, and are even less frequently photographed.

The iridescent clouds we saw yesterday were cirrus, not cumulus, and there wasn’t a thunderstorm in sight.

It was a gorgeous day with interesting cloud formations. White, puffy cumulus clouds were layered upon wispy cirrus clouds, which made them look like they were outlined in blue.

As we approached home the hub said, “The sky doesn’t look real.”

It didn’t. It looked like a painting.

Very cool sky. Very cool day.

Delicious burgers and Michigan corn on the cob for dinner.




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