Rare Rainbow Clouds Appear in Iceland Thanks To Freezing Temperatures

Nacreous Rainbow Clouds in Iceland

Professionally, Jónína Guðrún Óskarsdóttir works as the head nurse at a small healthcare center. In her spare time, she loves to photograph and share her surroundings. Luckily for us, since she lives on the eastern coast of Iceland, her surroundings are incredible. As you might imagine, she has plenty of opportunities to photograph the aurora borealis. But what really caught our eye were the photographs she has taken during the day when rare rainbow clouds filled the sky.

These polar stratospheric clouds (PSC) paint the sky with different colored stripes. PSCs are a type of wave cloud that are most often found downwind of mountain ranges. As expected, Óskarsdóttir's stunning rainbow cloud images feature prominent mountains. The colorful clouds form when the lower stratosphere hits -114°F (-81°C).

Normally, clouds don't appear in the lower stratosphere; but at such low temperatures, the water molecules present turn into small ice crystals. These ice crystals make up the clouds. When sunlight hits these clouds, the ice crystals cause the light to scatter and produce lovely striations of colors.

PSCs are divided into several different categories, including nacreous or mother-of-pearl clouds. Also known as Type II PSCs, these clouds are formed from pure water and, as such, produce more intense colors. In order for them to form, it needs to be even colder (-117°F or -83°C).

Though nacreous clouds are rare to see, extremely freezing conditions hit the area at the end of January, when Óskarsdóttir was able to capture the moment. Óskarsdóttir, who uses her photography hobby as a way to decompress from her stressful job, usually sees these colorful clouds two or three times a year.

She hopes that by sharing her work, people will come away with a smile and a positive connection with nature.

Particularly cold weather in Iceland caused colorful rainbow clouds called polar stratospheric clouds to fill the sky.

Ice Polar Stratospheric Clouds

Jónína Guðrún Óskarsdóttir: Flickr | Facebook

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Jónína Guðrún Óskarsdóttir.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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