Key Takeaways

  1. A mesmerizing “rainbow cloud” captured over a Chinese city has intrigued millions online.
  2. The phenomenon is a pileus cloud, forming above a growing cumulus cloud due to updrafts from a thunderstorm.
  3. The stunning rainbow halo is an example of cloud iridescence, an atmospheric optical phenomenon.
  4. Cloud iridescence occurs when light is diffracted by water droplets or ice crystals in the cloud.
  5. Similar rare meteorological events, like the “fire rainbow,” have awed viewers with their spectacular beauty.

A remarkable occurrence dubbed the “unicorn sprinkles” by a meteorologist has recently captivated the internet’s attention. The phenomenon, referred to as a “rainbow cloud,” materialized over a Chinese city, resembling a cosmic shaved ice suspended above a dark cloud. This spectacle, captured in a video that garnered over 28 million views, left spectators astonished and curious about its origins.

The captivating video was filmed in Haikou city, Hainan, and was posted on August 26. The breathtaking circular formation was identified as a pileus cloud, a type of cloud that forms above a growing cumulus cloud due to the updrafts from a thunderstorm. The Weather Network explained that the rapid ascent of air in the updraft pushes against cooler air above, leading to moisture condensation at the top of the updraft. This results in the creation of a graceful “cap” atop the neighboring cloud.

The extraordinary rainbow halo showcased in the phenomenon is an example of cloud iridescence, an atmospheric optical phenomenon. This phenomenon occurs when light is diffracted around the exterior of water droplets or ice crystals within the cloud, giving rise to an array of colors. Meteorologist Jen Carfagno from the Weather Channel likened the effect to pixie dust or “unicorn sprinkles,” noting that the colors in cloud iridescence lack the organized pattern of a rainbow.

Online observers were deeply fascinated by this extraordinary event of nature. Social media platforms buzzed with astonishment and creative speculations, comparing the phenomenon to portals to other worlds and even invoking humor by attributing it to a “flying spaghetti monster god.” This captivating event serves as a reminder of the beauty and diversity of natural occurrences that continue to astound and amaze humanity.


Credit:  Svetlana Kazina


Via Amanda Collins


Via TikTok/@juleko_o


Credit: Mel B


Image Credit & Copyright: Goran Strand


An iridescent pileus cloud. I love the perspective on this, looking almost straight up into it. Photo by Beckie Bone Dunning


Image by Karen Cat/FB.


Image by Shirley Li/FB.


These rainbow clouds, or “fire rainbows,” resulted from cloud iridescence. /VCG


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