Internet Finding Inspiration, Meaning In South Carolina’s Fire Rainbow — Science Explains Sight

When a so-called fire rainbow lit up the sky in South Carolina Sunday, Tiffany Jenks believed it was a sign from Mother Nature.

“The world today is so full strife, but just for that brief moment — when looking at the fire rainbow myself, the others around me and those seeing the photo — I seemed to step back and remember how beautiful our planet really is and how blessed we are to be a part of it.”

The woman talked to CBS News about her experience seeing it this weekend. The sight captured the attention not only of South Carolina beach goers lucky enough to see it in person, but the entire Internet.

And everyone seems to be divining their own meaning from the rare phenomenon.

One woman told WYFF she saw a message from a recently deceased friend. Another saw an angel. Jenks also saw the logo of her favorite band, The Dave Matthews Band.

Hundreds of people snapped pictures of the sight and posted them on social media, and soon South Carolina’s fire rainbow became an Internet sensation, not just for its many inspirational interpretations, but also because of its remarkable rarity.

According to a local meteorologist, Justin Lock, a set of atmospheric ingredients must be perfectly in tune to create one.

Also called a circumhorizontal arc, the phenomenon is created when light passes through high-altitude cirrus clouds and only when the sun is very high in the sky, National Geographic explained. Cirrus clouds are comprised of hexagonal ice crystals, and for the fire rainbow to be possible, those crystals must look more like thick plates. The faces of those plates must also be turned toward the ground.

This arrangement makes the crystal behave like prism — light shines through the vertical side face and exits via the bottom. It then bends just like it would if it went through a prism. This creates a beautiful spectrum of color.

The one in South Carolina lasted a full hour.

According to CBS, you have a better chance of catching one in the middle latitudes during the spring and summer months. They are rare at higher latitudes.

Sometimes, a brilliant sunset will display a similar spectacle, especially ones that occur around high-level cirrus clouds. The sun’s low angle reflects and bends the light, WYFF added.

“When I looked up I was truely in awe,” said Tiffany of her experience this weekend.

[Photo Courtesy Twitter]

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