Iridescence… Clouds with Colors!


After a short drizzle while I was on an expressway coming from a client meeting in a rural district up north of the Metro, I spotted a cloud formation behind a mass of darkened clouds which seems to radiate several colors.

Not wanting to forego this opportunity, I immediately parked on the side and put my “hazard lights” on… And quickly took this shot with an aperture of f/14 and a shutter speed of 1/100. My focal length was set to 110mm with an ISO settings set to “Auto”. And as I review my shot, I was breathless to see the “colorful clouds” and wondered, “How on earth this happened?”

As soon as I got back to the city, I stopped by a coffee shop and googled “clouds with color” and found this…!

“Iridescent clouds – clouds with rainbow colors – happen when especially tiny water droplets or small ice crystals individually scatter light.

Sky watchers on occasion report seeing colors in the clouds, and sometimes our friends send photos of these rainbow colors in clouds… These colorful clouds are called iridescent clouds, and the phenomenon is called cloud iridescence or irisation. The term comes from Iris, the Greek personification of the rainbow. It’s similar to the colors you might see when oil lies on the surface of a puddle of water. When you see a cloud like this, you know there are especially tiny ice crystals or water droplets in the air. Larger ice crystals produce solar or lunar halos, but tiny ice crystals or water droplets cause light to be diffracted – spread out – creating this rainbow-like effect in the clouds.” (Courtesy of

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