White Rainbows

On the drive up Montezuma Pass yesterday on our way to Morro Bay, I witnessed a strange phenomenon emerging from heavy fog when my daughter and I pulled off the side of the road because a trucker had motioned to us that there was something wrong. At first, I thought he was upset with me for driving the heavy RV up the pass too slowly. He came up along the side of me and refused to leave until I pulled over to investigate.

I had Lara get out of the RV and she discovered that her bike was dangling from the bike rack that had collapsed and the extension arm was bent down toward the ground. Her bike was hanging on by a thread- or rather a bungee cord and could have so easily broken loose. We were very fortunate that the bike hadn’t fallen off of the rack. I wish the trucker had stopped so that I could have thanked him profusely! From what I hear, truckers really look out for each other and I have noticed that whenever they pass me with Callie on the dash and I am driving the RV, they smile and give me a thumbs up.

We were able to snap the extension arm into a horizontal position and put the bike back up and secure it. By the time my husband and Fred discovered that we were missing in action, they turned around and came back to investigate. It all worked out just fine, and the reward for stopping at this particular place was a white rainbow or fogbow. I have never heard of such a thing and didn’t know what I was looking at. The mist was gently burning off and what emerged was this white arch rising out of the light and mist. Fred joked that it wasn’t very colorful, and with that, I was in agreement, but it was so unusual looking and in hindsight, I am really grateful that I snapped two photographs of it. I posted it online yesterday with, Callie’s Troubles are Behind Her blog post and my NationalParks follower suggested it was a sun halo. That didn’t sound quite right because it wasn’t cold enough for ice crystals to form, so I looked it up this morning on Google. A white rainbow is pretty rare and one photographer saw one in Rannoch, Scotland and said, “I have never seen anything like it in the 10 years capturing landscape photos around the globe.”

White rainbows, ghostbows, or fogbows are rainbows with the color leached out of them. They emerge from the fog that is thin enough for light to pass through. I saw the reddish tinge at the edges and there can also be blue, but the color is wiped out in the center of the rainbow. The sun needs to be at your back, which was the case for me. I was looking west in the morning and the sun was behind me and rising up over Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. As with a rainbow, a fogbow’s arch is shaped from water droplets and the sunlight passing through the drops is at a perfect angle. The water droplets are 100 times smaller than rain droplets. Most of the light is scattered when it hits these tiny droplets, but some of the light is refracted and the white or colorless rainbow then appears. The sweet spot, where the reflected and refracted sunlight is concentrated most, actually forms a complete ring and can sometimes be viewed from above in airplanes. Due to the incredibly small size of the droplets, the light waves don’t spend enough time interacting to separate cleanly and refract and cause the prism effect associated with colorful rainbows.

How fortunate I was to experience some misfortune so that I could witness this unusual rainbow. It was so eerie out with the mist rolling over the green pastoral scene and cows mooing off in the distance. It brought the stress into perspective and diffused it so that a bigger and grander picture came into view.

13 thoughts on “White Rainbows

    • sevenfauesisters March 13, 2018 / 11:37 pm

      You have? They are incredible! Glad to hear you have seen them too! I was amazed when I spotted this one arching over the road.


    • sevenfauesisters March 15, 2018 / 2:46 pm

      I love the term Ghostbow! Yes, my white rainbow was a fogbow and/or white rainbow and it was gorgeous. I have photographed pink rainbows too!:)


  1. Romeo March 18, 2018 / 8:37 pm

    you´ve been nominated in to The Sunshine Blogger Award.. congratz!

    Liked by 1 person

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