It’s time to celebrate being Irish (or pseudo-Irish) and look for that pot of gold waiting for you at the end of the rainbow.
I can’t help you with the Irish gig, but I can discuss rainbows. I can also pass on a Central European secret for how to get to the pot of gold.
This is the season to start seeing rainbows, whether you are in Ireland or Texas. The heated air from the South is expanding north and mixing with the cold air remaining from winter – producing spring storms. The combination of raindrops and sunlight produces the magic of rainbows.
Mix water droplets, sunlight, and you get a rainbow – or in this case six rainbows. SOURCE− The Astrophysics Science Division of NASA/GFSC Credit Terje O. Nordvik
As the sunlight pours into the rain, each drop acts as a prism, refracting the light. The white sunlight is broken down into its component colors. The back of the raindrop reflects this series of colors, each at a different angle. You see different colors from different raindrops and it blends into a bow.
Each raindrop acts as a prism Source − Wikipedia.
Once you know the basic science, you can start to understand why there are so many different crazy rainbows. The more the light bounces around, reflecting and refracting, the more different rainbows you can get. For example, there are:
Double rainbows – Light entering raindrops refract twice, going in from the air to the water and reflecting back out of the water into the air. Each refraction produces a rainbow. You can frequently see the bright first rainbow with a fainter reverse rainbow on the outside.
Multiple rainbows – Rain, mist, reflections and light bouncing through the water droplets creates many different rainbows. One scientist, with a laser, created 200 at once.
Monochrome rainbows – Sometimes, at sunrise or sunset, when the blues and greens have faded from the sky, you get a brilliant all-red rainbow.
An unenhanced photo of a red (monochrome) rainbow. Source − Wikipedia.
Whether there are one or fifty rainbows, they are all beautiful images that retreat as you approach them. The end of the rainbow with its pot of gold always remains tantalizingly out of reach.
But, here’s some hope for St. Patrick’s day. A number of European countries have rainbow folklore, spinning tales of elusive gold. In Silesia, (part of Central Europe) legend says that angels put a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and only a naked man can reach it.
So fortify yourself with green beer, warn the neighbors, and go for the gold!
Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologist, is a longtime writer for The Old Farmer's Almanac. She is also editor of The Browning World Climate Bulletin and has advised farmers, businesses, and investors worldwide on upcoming climate events and their economic and social impact for the past 21 years.