What Is A Fire Rainbow?: Rare Circumhorizontal Arc Appears In South Carolina

A rare fire rainbow amazed residents in South Carolina over the weekend. But what is a fire rainbow?

A fire rainbow, also called a circumhorizontal arc is a phenomenon that occurs when light from the moon or sun is reflected off of circular-shaped ice crystals that are suspended in the atmosphere. This typically happens with cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. In order for the fire rainbow to appear, the light source, which can be either the moon or the sun, must be located very high in the sky – at least an altitude of 58 degrees. When the light hits the crystals at a certain angle, the magic happens.

As The San Diego Union Tribune reports, the rare fire rainbow appeared on the skies over the Isle of Palms on Sunday. The colorful phenomenon lasted for about an hour before it disappeared.

The fire rainbow, which resembled angels’ wings, amazed one South Carolina visitor, as she said it reminded her of her friend who just passed away, WYFF4 reports. Tracey Smith said her friend Leslie was with her.

“I’m sure she came to visit us on the beach we all love! We miss you Leslie!”

Of course, just as any rare rainbow appears on the sky, it also appears on social media. Those who were able to witness the fire rainbow quickly posted their snapshots to Instagram. You can see some of them below.

Seen Off The NC Coast. #firerainbow #wow #saltlife #pineknollshoresnc #crystalcoast

A photo posted by Roger Jennings (@3rdnlong) on

Saw this #firerainbow in #charleston SC on Sunday! #nofilter

A photo posted by William Stephenson (@physnano) on

something special in the sky today #firerainbow

A photo posted by Colleen Burdett (@sseaburd) on

The appearance of the fire rainbow is more common in some places than others. They are more common in the United States during the summer, while they are more rare in European regions.

So the next time you see a fire rainbow or a circumhorizontal arc, whatever you want to call it, and someone asks you, “What is a fire rainbow?” you know the answer.

[Images via sseaburd/Instagram]