Rare cloud phenomenon turning heads on the Gold Coast

Fire rainbow 1

Gold Coaster Aisling Brennan captured the phenomenon in the skies above the southern Gold Coast yesterday, March 5. PICTURE: Supplied to myGC

TECHNICALLY known as a circumhorizontal arc, these “fire rainbows” are a rare sight.

Local Gold Coaster Aisling Brennan captured these images in the skies above the southern Gold Coast around midday on Wednesday, March 5.


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Unsure of what she was seeing, Aisling took to social media to try find an explanation for the optical phenomenon.

“It was a beautiful sunny day and there was just this wonderful rainbow cloud smack bang lain the middle of the sky,” she told myGC.

“I saw it with my dad and we couldn’t understand how they were made, just that they were magical.

Fire rainbow 2

Gold Coaster Aisling Brennan captured the phenomenon in the skies above the southern Gold Coast yesterday, March 5. PICTURE: Supplied to myGC

“I couldn’t figured it out because there was no rain, or even a rainbow anywhere in sight. We stood and watched for at least 10 minutes in awe.

“It was quite special because yesterday was my dad’s birthday, so it was nice to share the moment with him,” she said.

myGC understands the event only occurs when the sun is at an elevation of 58° or more and cirrus clouds are present.

According to the National Geographic website, the spectacle is caused by light passing through ice crystals in the wispy, high-altitude cirrus clouds.

“The sight occurs only when the sun is very high in the sky and the hexagonal ice crystals that make up cirrus clouds must be shaped like thick plates with their faces parallel to the ground,” the website says.

“When light enters through a vertical side face of such an ice crystal and leaves from the bottom face, it refracts, or bends, in the same way that light passes through a prism.

Rainbow - Justin Clarke - Tweed today - Feb 23 2014

The rare phenomenon was also photographed over the southern Gold Coast on February 23, 2014. PICTURE: Louise Quinn SOURCE: Supplied

“If a cirrus’s crystals are aligned just right, the whole cloud lights up in a spectrum of colors,” the National Geographic website says.

Also curious as to what causes the phenomenon is Kel Mills who managed to capture the site recently over Coolangatta.

Mr Mills still can’t quite work out what he had actually witnessed.

He sent in the below picture to the Courier Mail, whom have today published it one their website, in search for an answer.

“It looked like a rainbow looking for somewhere to go, although there was no rain about, so I really don’t know what it is,” Mr Mills said.

Rainbow - Ken Mills  - Coolangatta

Ken Mills recently captured the ‘Circumhorizontal Arc’ over Coolangatta. PICTURE: Ken Mills. SOURCE: Courier Mail

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