Stunning iridescent 'rainbow clouds' spotted in Scotland's skies

Nacreous clouds distribute light differently than regular clouds thanks to tiny ice particles.

Stunning iridescent ‘rainbow clouds’ spotted in Scotland’s skies Geoff Burnett

Parts of Scotland have seen the skies awash with colour this week amid the appearance of ‘rainbow clouds’.

The stunning, iridescent clouds appear to shimmer in the skies and have been spotted this week as the temperature dips.

Nacreous clouds are a rare natural phenomenon which mostly appear before or after sunset.

Rainbow clouds spotted over Kirkcaldy in FifeGeoff Burnett

Tiny ice particles reflect light differently to larger particles in regular clouds, which gives them their iridescent appearance.

They are mostly spotted during the winter months, as they require very low temperatures in order to appear in the skies.

Philip Petrie
Insight Philip Petrie STV weather presenter

There were several sightings of something strange, but quite beautiful, in the sky yesterday. I had several people sending photos of this phenomena, strange looking disc-like clouds reflecting rainbow colours. These iridescent clouds are very rare, and are called Nacreous clouds. 

“he Latin word “Nacre” means “mother of pearl” and this is a perfect way of describing the colour and reflectiveness of these clouds. They mostly occur before or after sunset and the ice particles within Nacreous clouds are much smaller than those in normal clouds, so they distribute light differently than regular which creates the luminescent appearance.

Because of the very low temperatures required, nacreous clouds are usually only visible from the UK when the cold air which circulates around polar regions in the stratosphere (known as the stratospheric polar vortex) is displaced and hovers temporarily over the UK.

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