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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Rainbow Tornado

By Phil Plait

Last year, I thought myself pretty lucky to catch a lightning bolt zapping across a rainbow while I was taking video of it.

But that was nothing compared with what some storm chasers saw near Eads, Colorado, on May 9, 2015: a tornado forming across a rainbow!


This was taken around 4:30 p.m. The Sun was about still halfway up the sky, putting the top edge of the rainbow just over the horizon. The raindrops forming the rainbow were between the storm chasers and the tornado, so technically the rainbow is in the foreground. Watching the video gives the illusion the rainbow is behind the tornado to me … but that is an illusion.

This tornado (and another nearby) reportedly didn’t do any damage or cause any injuries, but there were some in Texas spawned by the same massive system that did. I’ve never seen a tornado, nor do I feel the overwhelming need to. It’s rare to get them just where I live in Colorado, but towns nearby get their share. I’m glad we’re getting so much rain here this spring (especially given that Colorado supplies so much water to regions west of us that so desperately need it), but I also hope we don’t get the dangerous conditions that so often occur with it in this area … even if it sometimes gives us a glimpse of rare beauty.

Tip o' the storm cellar door to Geekologie.

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