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Flying Rainbow': What Caused This Rare Phenomenon Above China?

(Image via Daily Mail)

Seeing a rainbow is a rare enough phenomenon, but most can say they've caught a few in their lifetime. A "flying rainbow" on the other hand could be another story.

Those in the Wanning City in China's Hainan Province, however, saw one of these rare, colorful displays on Tuesday. Instead of its traditional bow shape, the rainbow colors appear more like a splash.

While traditional rainbows are created by moisture in Earth's atmosphere, this type "flying" or "glowing" rainbow results from ice crystals in clouds, according to the Daily Mail. Expounding on this concept further, the University of Washington has explained this as "iridescence." It states this usually happens when "different size droplets exist within a cloud" causing it to "exhibit patches of color" when the sun shines through. Cloud iridescence, it states, usually occurs in cirrocumulus and altocumulus clouds.

The Daily Mail reports Ye Xin for China's People's Daily Online saying the colors were seen into the evening and when the sun went down, they dispersed.

See more photos of the phenomenon here.

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