Are Fire Rainbows Like Unicorn Poop? 16-31

RainbowFire00Fire Rainbows? Really? Is this just another quaint cutesy phenon like brightly colored unicorn poop? I was skeptical. Let’s dig into this little mystery a bit further & see what we can find. Cryptozoology lovers want to know!

I read a passing comment about fire rainbows and instantly started wondering. Is that a really brightly lit rainbow? Is it a particular chemical combustion that creates rainbow colors?  Maybe something seen over a volcano?

I didn’t have high hopes because lately I’ve been seeing a lot of silly things about unicorn poop – also rainbow colored. I was leaning towards the belief that fire rainbows were in the same category.

Well I was wrong! Fire Rainbows are a real, albeit rare atmospheric phenomenon.



What Is It?

The Fire Rainbow’s real name is a circumhorizontal arc and they have nothing to do with fire or rainbows. According to Brian Clark Howard, in an article for National Geographic, fire rainbows are “caused by light passing through wispy, high-altitude cirrus clouds.”

RainbowFire03They occur rarely because very specific conditions have to be in place to create them:

  • Sun must be very high in the sky (58 degrees & higher above the horizon)
  • Hexagonal ice crystals in the cirrus clouds must be formed into thick plates
  • The hexagonal ice crystals must be facing parallel to the ground.

They don’t last more than a half hour once they appear, due to changing atmospheric conditions, but they sure are beautiful!

FireRainbow01Location, Location, Location

If you want to look for one of these beauties,  you’ll have to be in the right place at the right time. Fire rainbows cannot be seen north of 55 degrees N or south of 55 degrees S. According to author Kaushik in an article for Amusing Planet, “For example, in London, England the sun is only high enough for 140 hours between mid-May and late July. While in Los Angeles, the sun is higher than 58 degrees for 670 hours between late March and late September.”

That makes it pretty tricky to find, in my opinion. I supposed like most things, you’ll come upon it by accident one day. But at least you’ll know what it is.



If you think I’m kidding about the unicorn poop phenomenon, just have a look at this.



Have you ever seen a fire rainbow?





  1. I think I may have seen one although I didn’t know at the time that it was called a “fire rainbow”. We were driving back from VA and I looked over my left shoulder for traffic and saw this beautiful cloud in the sky with rainbow colors. I don’t remember if it was “wispy” but I was intrigued by it for the short time I got to see it. I think someone in the car may have taken a picture but I’ll have to ask around and find out.

  2. Virginia must be the place to see the “fire rainbows” because iv’e seen them many times. Jan and Feb about noon when we have speedy jet stream and very thin upper atmosphere clouds. Iv’e tried to photograph them but not so good. Robert Fallin

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