Fire rainbows have nothing to do with fire, and they aren’t even rainbows. When the sun is higher than 58°, something called circumhorizontal arcs can be seen. Cirrus clouds, which are thin, feathery clouds that form at higher elevations, are another thing that makes these circles. Because it is cold where these clouds are, the ice crystals in them are in the shape of a hexagon. When these crystals are in the right place, they act like a prism, and the way light bends through them looks like a rainbow.
Many people think that these kinds of halos don’t happen very often. But the number of times you see them depends on where you are in relation to a certain location. Even though it doesn’t happen very often in mid-latitude and northern Europe, it happens a lot in the United States every summer. So, for example, there are 5–10 times more chances of these “fire rainbows” happening in Los Angeles than in London.
Cessna Kutz took a picture of a beautiful fire rainbow over Lake Sammamish.
Cessna wrote on Instagram that she had “seen a pretty cool thing happen out on Lake Sammamish today” when she posted the stunning picture. “A rainbow on the side! In these uncertain times, it was a little warning to hold on to hope and love instead of fear and panic. Friends, stay safe out there.”
It is a visual effect when the sun is more than 58 degrees above the horizon.
After the shooter posted the pictures, they went viral almost right away. Cessna told one news outlet, “I had no idea that these photos would make the news.” “I just wanted to tell you about a beautiful thing I saw. I’m really into photography, so I’m glad that God has used my pictures to touch people all over the country and even the world. It has helped my photography business and made a difference in people’s lives, so it feels pretty great.”