If you spotted “rainbow-like” clouds high in Trinidad’s western skies on Monday afternoon, you were not alone!

A strong thunderstorm in the Gulf of Paria, which brought wind gusts as high as 46 KM/H and heavy rainfall to parts of Chaguaramas and northwestern Trinidad, was the source of the spectacle called iridescent clouds.

Iridescent clouds, known as “fire rainbows” or “rainbow clouds,” occur when sunlight diffracts off water droplets in the atmosphere, with the recipe for these heavenly sights is pretty simple.

Like common cloud-to-ground rainbows, iridescent clouds usually accompany thunderstorms. When the cumulonimbus cloud or the cloud associated with thunderstorms reach higher and higher in the atmosphere, the air is pushed upwards, expands, and cools. Moisture in that air suddenly condenses into tiny droplets to form a cap cloud.

This cap cloud, or pileus, is the source of the iridescence. Water droplets within the cap cloud scatter sunlight just like they do with a typical rainbow. These iridescent clouds also appear in the late afternoon and on very hot and humid days.

Reporter: Kalain Hosein