Pillars and Rainbows

northern exposures

photo by David Craig, pastor, Fort Yukon Baptist Church

Snow is to winter as rain and rainbows are to summer. Right? Well, last Monday was an extraordinary day. Thanks to pastor Craig’s photographs, I can now tell you about it. Morning dawned cloudy and 10 degrees F, not at all cold by our standards but well below freezing, like so many other recent mornings since the 60 below spell on the first of the month.

But this was to be no ordinary morning. As first period got underway, our cook Joyce popped in and exclaimed, “It’s raining!” Well, that got our attention. Joyce isn’t the joking kind, so we all tumbled out the back door of the school and sure enough, it was raining! It was freezing, but this was not freezing rain, it really was wet as rain can be!

As the brief rain shower faded away and the clouds began to thin, the sun broke through in the east, stabbing the sky above with one of its strange pillars of light which you can see in the picture above. At Christmas time I posted another picture of this phenomenon; they are quite visible to the eye and not a trick of the lens.

When the winter sun is low on the horizon and stratocirrus clouds are high, high overhead, magic sometime happens. If the air is full of tiny falling ice crystals, the sunlight reflects off them and pillars of the sun shoot skyward.

Rain and the sun pillar weren’t the only surprises of the morning; back to the west and opposite the sun a rainbow bridged the sky from north to south. You can see it rising above Nell’s house in the picture below.

photo by David Craig, pastor, Fort Yukon Baptist Church

Rain, sun spires and frozen rainbows. Even my students were amazed by it all. As for the rain, it must have formed in a warm layer of air aloft, then fallen to earth unchanged through a very shallow layer of freezing air. The shower was brief and the clouds quickly dispersed, but sufficient residual moisture remained in the air to produce the rainbow effect.

A strange and memorable morning, indeed. Many thanks to David Craig for sharing his photos.

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