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Photographer captures stunning 'horizontal rainbow' covering an entire lake

Cessna Kutz's breathtaking photographs of the fire rainbow have gone viral on social media.

Photographer captures stunning 'horizontal rainbow' covering an entire lake
Cover Image Source: Instagram/Cessna Kutz

When photographer Cessna Kutz recently came across one the most stunning sights she'd ever seen, she couldn't help but take it as a sign of hope in these distressing times. Although a common sight in America, the 'Fire rainbow' took her breath away, reminding her to take a moment to enjoy the little things in life, especially when its the hardest to do so. Kutz immediately snapped a photo of the stunning spectacle spanning across Lake Sammamish in Washington last month and shared it with her followers on Instagram who were equally enthralled by the breathtaking sight.


Captioning the incredible photograph, Kutz wrote: Witnessed a pretty cool phenomenon out on Lake Sammamish today. A horizontal rainbow! To me, it was a little reminder to hold onto hope and love instead of fear and panic in these unknown times. Stay safe out there, friends. #rainbowsofhope #flattenthecurve. But what exactly is a fire rainbow? Despite its name, this phenomenon is neither a rainbow nor a byproduct of fire. According to Courtney Obergfell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle, what's seen in Kutz's photograph could be what is called a circumhorizontal arc. 



Speaking to IFL Science, Obergfell explained: "It is an optical phenomenon that is essentially an ice halo formed by the refraction of the Sun in ice crystals in the atmosphere. In its full form, it can appear as a rainbow-esque band that's horizontal to the horizon, below the Sun." She added that while her department doesn't keep records of the phenomenon, they do receive photographs of them periodically. The fire rainbow phenomenon is said to occur when the Sun is higher than 58 degrees above the horizon, causing the formation of a large, colored band that runs parallel to the horizon.



This rainbow-esque band is the Sun's light passing through high-altitude cirrus clouds or haze containing plate-shaped ice, which when perfectly aligned, acts as a prism and refract light in a way that resembles a rainbow. Although fire rainbows aren't extremely rare, your chances of spotting a fire rainbow depend on your location. While it is often seen in the United States several times a year, it is rarer in mid-latitude areas like northern Europe. Meanwhile, the phenomenon never occurs in countries north or south of latitude 55 degrees, as there the Sun is always lower than 58 degrees.


In fact, there are a few other types of rainbow-like phenomenons. There are believed to be at least 12 based on the number and combination of colors seen, including horizontal, full circle, a ghostlike white halo, and multiple rainbows appearing at the same time. Speaking of the fire rainbow she managed to capture on camera, Kutz said that it was a reminder that the planet has time to slow down even in times of utter chaos. "Spreading hope and positivity will do more good than being fearful. Witnessing such a phenomenon during a time like this was a beautiful reminder of just that," she said. "Nature has a pretty incredible way of speaking to us if we choose to listen."


Speaking to My Modern Met about spotting the fire rainbow, Kutz revealed that its magical appearance was a welcome distraction for her. "I just felt blessed to be able to witness such an incredible moment," she said. "It brought me peace and hope and made me feel less anxious about our current circumstances." As for her photographs going viral on social media, Kutz said that she "had no idea these photos would make the news. I was just wanting to share a beautiful moment I got to witness." She revealed that the viral snaps have helped boost her photography, saying, "I’m super passionate about photography so I’m grateful that God has used my photos to touch people, not only throughout the nation but throughout the world. It’s boosted my photography business as well as make an impact on people so it feels pretty amazing."





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