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Name: Margaret S.
Status: student
Age: 17
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2/26/2003

Can there be rainbows in the winter? If not, why?

If it is raining, and the sun is behind you, rainbows can be formed. It just so happens that in winter in many places the proper conditions are not present for that to occur.

Vince Calder

Dear Margaret S.

I would suppose there would certainly be rainbows in winter somewhere in the world. Rainbows are formed when the sun is shining in one part of the sky and water droplets in a cloud or falling rain is in the opposite part of the sky. In the tropics, there can be rainbows year 'round. In our climates farther north, (and farther south, think tip of South America), we get snow.

As you may have noticed in winter, the air is drier than in summer. Colder air cannot hold as much water as warm air. Less water, less chance for rainbows. Also the temperature would freeze the raindrops into ice crystals, not conducive to rainbows. Sometimes on a cold winter night you can see a halo around the moon, that's the ice crystals doing their thing.

So if you want rainbows in winter we have to head to Hawaii. Sounds like a plan!

Happy Physics!

Martha Croll

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