Weather 101: What cloud is that?

Weather 101

Saturday afternoon, WTEN viewer John Ostrowski snapped a picture of some spectacular, rainbow-colored clouds. Of course we wanted to know… what cloud is that!?!

The wispy clouds with hooks on the end are called Cirrus Uncinus, and they’re some of my favorites. Sometimes, there are also referred to as “Mares’ Tails.” Cirrus clouds form at high altitudes, tens of thousands of feet above sea level. Because of the the frigid cold temperatures at that height, they consist of ice crystals rather than water droplets. That gives them that thin, wispy appearance.

The colors are courtesy of a phenomenon called “Cloud Iridescence.” When sunlight hits high clouds, like cirrus, at the right angle, the droplets/ice crystals can scatter the light and produce the rainbow coloration.

This ends up being relatively rare, because it requires a very thin cloud and that the crystals within the cloud be very uniform… but when it happens, it’s always a spectacular view! Thanks for sharing, John!

If you’ve got a burning weather question you want answered, send an email to Matt (mmackie@news10.com) or Rob (rlindenmuth@news10.com) and it might get featured on Weather 101!

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