Sunlit Water

May 25, 2009


Filed under: Nature,Personal — by teofilo @ 6:16 pm

My mom and my sister came out to stay with me at Chaco for Memorial Day weekend.  There were some family events in Farmington yesterday, and they figured it would be both cheaper and more fun to stay with me than to get a motel room in Farmington.  I don’t have a roommate right now (although that’s likely to change soon), so that worked out just fine for me.  They brought my mom’s new dog, Mimi.  It was fun to have her around, and it was a nice visit overall.

It’s been kind of intermittently stormy here lately, with small storm systems moving through quickly and dropping small amounts of rain followed by periods of clear skies.  Not long after my mom and sister got back from Farmington yesterday one of these systems moved through, and as it was clearing up there was a really spectacular rainbow.  I took some pictures of it.

We were talking about it later, and my mom mentioned that when she was growing up in Philadelphia she always thought rainbows were this extraordinarily rare phenomenon that people saw maybe once in a lifetime.  I found this really surprising, since for me, growing up in the west, rainbows were a frequent occurrence.  Whenever there was a rainstorm, which wasn’t often, there would be a rainbow after it.  I had never really thought about it before, but in the east the rain doesn’t work like that.  Instead of coming and going quickly the way it does here, it just sort of lingers and gradually tapers off, with no rainbows.

In some places, like Ithaca, it basically just never clears up for months at a time.  Philadelphia’s not quite that bad, but it has the same basic pattern.  Plus it’s really humid all the time, so there isn’t the same contrast between wet and dry air that I think is key to rainbow formation.

So my mom had never seen a rainbow until she moved out west as an adult.  Wow.



  1. Yeah, as a New Yorker I think of rainbows as a big exciting deal — if you see one, which might happen every couple of years, you yell for everyone to come look. Samoa was riddled with them, OTOH — it took me months to get over being excited every day or so.

    Comment by LizardBreath — May 27, 2009 @ 1:35 pm |Reply

  2. I like how the end of the rainbow is a rest-stop – reminds me of my long trips in the West, when that certainly is how I greeted rest-stops.

    Comment by delagar — May 27, 2009 @ 3:04 pm |Reply

  3. Curious if you recall seeing many in the morning rather than the afternoon. Since the primary bow is an arc 40-42 degrees from the line connecting the observer and the Sun, they are only visible for a certain number of hours after sunrise and before sunset (varies by latitude and time of year, plus possible times of observation increased greatly if you are standing on top of a mountain). Not as many as in the interior West, but the Midwest gets more than the Northeast, because it is more prone to late afternoon/evening localized showers and thunderstorms from convective heating setting up the right mix of sun/rain conditions. I’d guess I’ve seen about four or five a year in Pittsburgh and slightly higher in Northeast Ohio. But very, very rarely have I seen one looking west, as they appear in the morning .

    Comment by JP Stormcrow — May 27, 2009 @ 10:07 pm |Reply

  4. I only recall seeing them in the afternoon, which is probably because it almost always rains in the afternoon rather than in the morning. I don’t recall ever seeing one looking west, either. These pictures were taken looking east.

    Comment by teofilo — May 27, 2009 @ 10:12 pm |Reply

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