Rainbows in Seattle

Rainbows usually need two things: the sun close to the horizon and rain. Seattle has both, and we get a lot of rainbows. In fact, our rainbow conditions are so good that we often get double rainbows.


If you want to see a rainbow, look away from the sun while there’s water in the air. If the sun is high, you have to look down at the ground, and you won’t see a rainbow. But if the sun is low, then looking away from it means looking just below the horizon. A rainbow will be up to the right or left. If conditions are ideal, you’ll even be able to see a second, reverse rainbow outside the clearer one.


Rainbows do not exist the way that clouds exist. They’re entirely subjective, relative to the positions of the observer relative, of the sun, and of water-soaked air. Without color vision, we wouldn't see them at all, and color vision represents our evolutionary past better than it relates to physics. So if that's the case, do rainbows really exist?


November 2005, September 2013



art car at Burning Man 2005