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Clouds That Look Like Fire

With days getting longer and warmer in the Northern Hemisphere, perhaps you'll get a glimpse, as this very fortunate photographer living in the Northwestern United States did, of what appears to be a fiery rainbow in the sky.

What looks like fire in this beautiful image is actually a circumhorizontal arc, a rarity in the weather world, taken over northern Idaho.

This phenomenon occurs when light passes through wispy, high-altitude cirrus clouds and only when the sun is positioned very high in the sky. To make it even more of a rarity, the main component of cirrus clouds -- hexagonal ice crystals -- must be shaped in a specific way and with their faces parallel to the ground.

As you can see in the photo, the crystals were aligned perfectly so that the cloud "lights up" in a beautiful spectrum of colors.

National Geographic News

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