All You Need To Know About The Fascinating Phenomenon Of White Rainbows!

VIBGYOR is quite possibly the most known acronym worldwide. Rainbows are a mesmerising treat for the eyes. They have us spellbound with their charm no matter how many times we see them. It is probably the only naturally occurring phenomenon that enables us to see multiple colours at once.

But, can rainbows also be of a single colour?

In 2016, a photographer based in the UK, Melvin Nicholson, captured the rarest sight of a pure white light arch in Scotland. It was not like white rainbows were not a thing before but this one was the most recent proper sighting. White rainbow, or “fog bow”, they called it.


According to NASA:

The fogbow’s lack of colors is caused by the smaller water drops … so small that the wavelength of light becomes important. Diffraction smears out colors that would be created by larger rainbow water drops..

A fog bow, or a white rainbow, is obviously a similar phenomenon to a rainbow. But like the name suggests, it appears as a bow in fog and not in rain. Like rainbows, fogbows can be seen when the sun is at your back. When a fog bow appears at night, it is called a lunar fog bow.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 0dvgzpb3nbzz.jpg
Source: Reddit


Violet light bends the most, red least. So red light is angled more steeply towards the ground than other colours. This means that red light leaving water droplets higher in the sky has a better chance of reaching your eyes. This is why we see rainbows as bands of colours with red on the outside.

Fogbows are formed when sunlight meets moisture, refracting light from the tiny water droplets suspended in the air. While rainbows mostly appear after rainfall, as sunlight refracts through larger water droplets, fog bows show up when the sun shines on fog, consisting of much smaller water droplets.

“Due to the small size of the droplets, the light waves don’t spend enough time within the droplets to refract enough to separate cleanly and focus into colours,” US National Weather Services meteorologist Brian Jackson explained.

Image result for white rainbow
Source: Flickr

Unlike water droplets during rain, fog particles of water act as much smaller prisms. They can’t refract as much light but allow light to diffract from the small droplets and merge into a circular white haze as the colours continually overlap each other.

According to The Weather Channel, the best condition for spotting a fog bow is on a slightly foggy day, with bright sunshine on your back, around areas likely to gather humidity like a field, a mountain valley, at a coast, or on a lakeshore.

Read Also: Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Upside Down Rainbows

Manisha Panda

A recent commerce graduate, Manisha has possessed an affinity for words since she was 8. A writer by day and reader by night, she is immensely passionate about her work. Find her assume other roles of a part-time music and movie buff and full-time foodie.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button