Ask the 6 Storm Team: Rare rainbow phenomenon ‘circumhorizontal arc’

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – As you look up into the sky, you will see a different view each day. Many saw a fairly rare weather phenomenon Thursday called a circumhorizontal arc, which may look similar to a sun halo, but it’s not the same thing.

A number of viewers sent in photos of the circumhorizontal arc, but many didn’t understand what exactly was in the sky.Viewer photos: Circumhorizontal arc

The sun refracts off of ice crystals in cirrus or cirrostratus clouds to form a spectrum-colored band. The arc was either in full or close to that Thursday, resulting in a well-defined spectrum-colored band running parallel to the horizon below the sun.

We also need a high sun angle, so the sunlight can hit the ice crystals at the needed angle or 58 degrees or more. Since our days are getting longer, we met that requirement and most of the viewer pictures were taken around midday.

In some cases, the arc may appear as a fire rainbow, but that is not the correct way to identify what happened.Do you have a question for the WATE 6 Storm Team? Contact Matt Hinkin, Ken Weathers, Trent Magill and Ryan Beesley:

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