Nov 26, 2016 I Paul Seaburn

Rare White Rainbow Appears Over Scotland

What does one find at the end of white rainbow? If you said “A wet pot of gold that you can’t see anyways because of the fog,” you’re pretty close. A photographer in Scotland captured some stunning pictures of this mysterious and rare phenomenon. Did he find anything else?

British landscape photographer Melvin Nicholson was taking pictures recently in Rannoch Moor, just south of Glen Coe and 160 km (100 miles) north of Glasgow, when he saw what he described as an “unbelievably beautiful white rainbow” or fogbow. He painted the picture as only a good landscape photographer can.

As soon as I saw this wonderful isolated windswept tree, I knew that it had to be framed by the fog bow. Freshly fallen snow set the scene all around. It was just beyond magical and one of those days that you’ll remember for a long time to come.

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This fuzzy fogbow shows it's always easy to get a photograph like Melvin Nicholson's

He’ll have to rely on memory and those stunning photos because white rainbows truly are a rare phenomenon – similar yet far different than a conventional rainbow. Also known as fogbows, cloudbows or ghost rainbows, white rainbows start the same way as conventional rainbows do when sunlight hits water droplets is the sky opposite the sun.

The first difference is in the size of the droplets. While regular rainbows are the result of rain (duh), white rainbows are caused by much smaller droplets which occur in fog or clouds. Their size prevents them from breaking the colorless sunlight into its bright components so it appears to be a white opaque band in the sky. While the shape is generally an arch, a fogbow can occur in other formations and is usually wider than a rainbow.

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Fogbows are generally larger than rainbows

The best place to see a fogbow is in a fog (another duh) when the sun is bright and behind you. That’s what makes them so uncommon since fog generally happens early or late in the day and is quickly burned off by the sun. A more common spot for white rainbows is above the ocean or large bodies of water.

That’s why Melvin Nicholson’s white rainbow was so rare – it occurred on a bright day over land. While he got some beautiful photographs and Internet attention, that’s all he got as there’s no leprechaun gold or other folklore benefits to finding and chasing a white rainbow. His was just a sign that he’s a really good nature photographer.


Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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