All of us have probably seen a rainbow. A rainbow is seen when light is shone through water droplets and the light is reflected, refracted, and dispersed which creates a spectrum of light. We’ve seen them stretch across the whole sky, usually in a big arc. The color pattern of red on the outside and violet on the inside is caused by the light being refracted when entering a droplet of water, then reflected when inside, then refracted again when leaving it.
Sometimes, some of us have even seen a DOUBLE rainbow. This phenomenon occurs when the light is reflected TWICE while still on the inside of the water droplet. I learned while writing this that the order of the colors of the second (outer) rainbow are reversed due to this extra reflection. That’s something I’d never noticed!
Although we’ve all seen a rainbow, and many of us have seen a double rainbow, I don’t know if any of us have ever seen in person the meteorological phenomenon of an iridescent pileus cloud. I know I haven’t.
Pileus clouds are rare and short lived. A pileus cloud with an accompanying rainbow are even more rare. A pileus cloud is a small horizontal cloud appearing above a cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud. Pileus clouds are formed by a strong updraft at lower altitudes interacting with moist air above it. This causes the air to cool to its dew point, creating a round cap-like cloud on top of the other. Soon after formation of the pileus cloud, the main cloud beneath them will rise through convection to absorb them. Because of the unstable air flow, these clouds are often an indicator of severe weather.
It is hard to believe that something as beautiful as the iridescent pileus cloud could be an indicator of severe weather. It also feels like a shame that it is so rare and short lived. This form of a rainbow is definitely different, but its beauty is unmistakable.
After years of hearing it again and again in my childhood religious education classes, I will always think of God’s promise to the world when I see a rainbow. After the great flood, God spoke to Noah and said:
When I see this beauty streaked across the sky, it fills me with hope because God has promised us good things. He does not promise riches or comfort, but the same God who makes the rainbow loves me and is looking out for me. So often these good times are as short and rare as an iridescent pileus cloud, but this does not make them less good. In fact, these brief respites should be all the more adored because they are fleeting. We must appreciate the good things we have and the good times when they come. Each one is a gift from God to renew our hope, to remind us of God’s promise to us. It is so important that we remember this. Too often we focus on the negative, the bad things that often seem to be the constant norm, but God has told us that He loved us. He promises us eternal life with Him in heaven. This brings me hope, and I pray that it does the same for you.
St. Paul put it beautifully in his letter to the Romans. I pray this verse for all of you, and I hope that you will take time this week to reflect on the verse and grow in hope.