Did you realize that not every rainbow you see is the same?

How Did I Never Notice This Before?

Recently, while driving along I-70 on the extreme western edge of Colorado I saw a double rainbow. Of course, a double rainbow is a common occurrence, but, what I noticed for the first time in my entire life is that the colors of the two rainbows are reversed. I've always thought that all rainbows are the same, and that is definitely not the case.

When I first saw the colors of the rainbows in reverse order I thought maybe I was seeing an extremely rare phenomenon. As it turns out, it's not rare or unusual at all. The photo below on the right is enhanced to bring out the color of the rainbow to help you see how the colors are reversed.

Colorado Rainbow
Canva / Zane Mathews

The Reflection of A Rainbow Explained

Upon giving the matter some thought, I guessed that maybe what I was seeing was a reflection of the rainbow. And you know what? That's basically what it is. Here's how 9 News weather reporter Cory Reppenhagen explains:

First, the light gets bent or refracted when it enters the raindrop. That separates the colors. Then it hits the back of the raindrop and reflects the colors back towards the sun. It’s that reflection that we see in the sky as a rainbow. Double rainbows happen when the light gets reflected twice inside the water droplet. It’s a reflection of the reflection.

9 News

That right there is a basic explanation of the double rainbow phenomenon and that's good enough for me. But, if you would like to learn more about the science of rainbows there is some real good information here.

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Take A Good Look the Next Time You See A Double Rainbow

If you are like me and have never really noticed how the colors of a double rainbow are reversed, take a closer look the next time you see a double rainbow. With spring coming on and an increase in showers, you should have plenty of opportunities to see the reflection of the rainbow.

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