• WTF?!? @cnnbrk reports: Tornado warning in effect for south central Los Angeles. #
  • It turns out there’s a tornado warning in Orange County too. I can believe it. #

  • Drove past Blizzard HQ during a thunderstorm. Saw a really nice lightning strike a few minutes later. #
  • Got soaked walking out of the parking structure. Wouldn’t be so bad if the rain was coming straight down. Ducked into first restaurant I saw. #
  • Oh, NOW the storm lets up while I’m INSIDE. Rain & sky are both lightening up, & I haven’t seen any lightning in at least 10 minutes. #
  • Aaaand we now return you to your regularly scheduled California sunshine! #

I glanced out the window while eating lunch at Johnny Rockets and saw this brilliant rainbow. I hastily told the server that I would be right back, and was just going to look at it, and left some of my stuff at the table while I came out and snapped a picture. A passing security guard remarked that he had the same idea, but didn’t have his camera. When I went back in, two of the employees were staring out the window at it.

The other day I was walking past a construction site in the Irvine Spectrum area, and noticed a rainbow-like ring appearing in the road. I immediately thought of this mystery photo on APOD and its (rather technical) explanation. Naturally, I had to take a picture myself.

Glass Bow

It basically is a rainbow, except formed by reflections in tiny glass beads (used for sandblasting) instead of raindrops. The physicist who posted his (much better) photo to APOD had a better camera handy. And a linear polarizer. (Don’t you always carry one of those?)

Sadly, I only had my phone.

Sun HaloWhenever there’s a light layer of cirrus clouds in the sky, I keep an eye out for halos. I catch the occasional iridescent cloud, or a faint sundog that’s only visible through sunglasses. Today I spotted a 22° halo as I walked back to my car after lunch, around 2:00pm on March 6.

It’s not as sharp as the one I caught 2 years ago, but there was more color. It was clearly reddish toward the inside and bluish toward the outside. Like last time, I didn’t have the good camera, just my cell phone, but at least this time it was a better phone!

This reminds me, our trip to San Francisco a few weeks ago was through patchy clouds, sun, and rain—perfect for rainbows. We spotted several, including one which was not only extremely bright, but actually showed supernumaries inside the band.

Rainbow along US 101

We saw this on Thursday, February 21, somewhere between Paso Robles and San Jose along US Highway 101. Katie remarked that it looked almost double-layered, I looked over, and said, “Grab the camera! It has fringes!”

I’d never seen, or never noticed supernumaries before. I’d never even heard of them until I was reading through Atmospheric Optics a few years ago. If you look on this color-enhanced picture (actually from another photo of the same rainbow), you can see several extra bands inside the violet arc, alternating green and pink.

Zoomed rainbow with supernumary bows.

The really weird thing? Classical optics doesn’t explain them. Refraction and reflection can only explain the red-to-violet band and the secondary bands that sometimes appear outside the main arc. These are actually wave interference patterns that occur if the water droplets are small enough.

On a related note, last Sunday (March 2) I saw what I’m fairly certain was a lenticular cloud, except it didn’t look remotely like a lens. It was just a long, narrow flat cloud floating above the Santa Ana Mountains. I noticed it around 3:00 in the afternoon, and a couple of very thin, also flat clouds above it, and thought it looked like the beginnings of the stack formation. What clinched it was the fact that the cloud was still there, 5 hours later (visible at night by reflected city light), despite the high Santa Ana winds. You know, after spotting two sets last summer, it looks like they form in Orange County a lot more often than I thought.

Friday was the first rain we’d seen in over a month. By evening, the trailing edge of the storm was starting to cross central Orange County, and I actually drove back into the cloud cover to pick Katie up from work. We ended up stopping for dinner, and got back on the road around sunset.

Rainbow at sunset.At sunset, there were clouds above us, rain in the east, and clear skies to the west, showing a bright orange sun. We looked to the east, and saw a huge rainbow. It was extremely high—it looked like it ought to be an entire circle, even though I knew it couldn’t be more than a semicircle. That doesn’t come through in the one photo that came out, since it’s a matter of perception: neither of us had ever seen a rainbow centered at the horizon before. It was also faint (I had to increase the contrast on this photo), and very red.

Sunset behind a blimp hangar.

Google Images pulls up some nice pictures when you search for rainbow sunset. I particularly like this one at Flickr, which also shows spoke-like rays. Atmospheric Optics’ rainbow section is also worth a look, especially for some of the odd kinds of rainbows that aren’t often seen.