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The Fog Bow

August 26, 2011

This morning at CUE Haven we woke up to wonderfully thick fog.  It wasn’t such good news for travellers, but for us it made everything look wonderfully strange  and different.  It didn’t last long, however, because as soon as the sun came up it started burning off.

I decided to drive up to the high ground to get an overview and take some pictures and this was the view from up there:

Normally from here you would see the cottage and nursery and the neighbor’s farms, but this morning everything looked like it was under water.  The fog looked a lot thicker from above than it had been down below and I was thinking how cool it would be to drive back down—like an airplane descending into the clouds as it gets ready to land.

As I drove down I was mildly disappointed that the fog was rapidly dissipating but then I noticed something unusual.  There seemed to be a brighter than usual spot in the fog bank ahead of me.

As I got closer, the white column turned into a white rainbow!

I got back to the cottage and called my wife outside to see the “fog bow.”  Her response was that there is no such thing as a “fog bow.”  I told her that’s what I’d thought.

When we got back to town this afternoon I did some research and found out that there is indeed something called a fog bow and that is what we’d seen.  I have a book, which I’ve never read, called Wonders of the Sky and it told me almost everything I ever wanted to know.

According to the book, fog bows are really called fog bows, but are sometimes referred to as white rainbows.  They are caused by the same mechanism as
rainbows, but because the water droplets that cause fog are so much smaller
than the rain drops which cause rainbows, there is much less refraction and
therefore almost no color.  If a fog bow has any color at all it will be reddish and they are usually twice as thick as rainbows.

A fog bow will occur any time there is a light source behind you and fog in front of you, which is exactly what happened to me this morning.  The book says that on a foggy night the moon can create a “moon bow,” which would definitely be worth seeing.  Apparently, you can get a slightly less impressive moon bow from streetlights or car headlights.  But I don’t think it would be a good idea to stand in a road at night with fog in front of you and car headlights behind you.

I’d never seen or heard of a fog bow before.  I’m not sure if you have, but I hope you get a chance to see one!

29 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2011 1:06 am

    Very cool Thomas! It makes everything look magical. I have seen a moon bow before here in Minnesota but only once. Thanks for sharing the photos.

    • August 27, 2011 7:44 pm

      Thanks! I’m going to be on the look out for a moon bow now that I know what to look for.

  2. Len Skuta permalink
    August 27, 2011 2:05 am

    All along I thought it was my mental condition.

  3. August 27, 2011 2:45 am

    Thanks for having your trusty camera available and showing the way to a fog bow.
    We live in two foggy areas: the San Francisco Bay Area and in a small beach house on the Central Coast. Never have I seen what you have photographed.
    We live above the fog line in the Bay Area and have the pleasure of sunshine when below, the city still sits under a moisture canopy.

    But never have I seen or heard of a fog bow. Beautiful.

    • August 27, 2011 7:51 pm

      Thanks Cheri. I remember being in SF and looking out at Alcatraz. In about 2 minutes it went from being visible to being totally covered in fog.

  4. Snoring Dog Studio permalink
    August 27, 2011 12:42 pm

    Lovely photos and thanks so much for the education! I love fog. I don’t like to drive in it, but I thrill to its eeriness and quiet. Fog Bows. Wonderful.

    • August 27, 2011 7:53 pm

      Thanks. It’s amazing how different everything looks and sounds in a nice thick fog.

  5. jacquelincangro permalink
    August 27, 2011 1:32 pm

    I’d never heard of a fog bow before. But it looks really neat. Probably a once in a lifetime chance that you got a glimpse of it. The only time I’ve seen fog thicker than that was in British Columbia. The very definition of “pea soup fog!”

    • August 27, 2011 7:55 pm

      Yes I think the timing was just right because it faded very rapidly as the run rose and the fog thinned out.

  6. August 27, 2011 2:22 pm

    How gorgeous. Thank you for passing on that pleasure to us all.

    The second photo looks like what people see in a near death experience. Though I suppose that would correlate more with the car headlights thing.

  7. August 27, 2011 4:59 pm

    Great pics, especially the fog bow. I am one of those people who enjoy weather you can “feel,” like a thunderstorm or dense fog. I wold have loved wandering around in that fog.

  8. August 27, 2011 6:12 pm

    Thomas thank you for sharing. I have never seen or even heard of a fog bow. Wonderful.

  9. August 27, 2011 7:28 pm

    Ever heard of a rain horn?

  10. August 27, 2011 11:09 pm

    Just fabulous!

  11. August 28, 2011 1:59 am

    Sweet, I’ve met my quota for ‘learn something new everyday.’

  12. August 28, 2011 12:10 pm

    Magic! A white rainbow. Thanks, Tom.

  13. Hansiansi permalink
    August 28, 2011 11:17 pm

    That was pretty cool. Never heard of a fog bow, but fog as seen from above, covering a valley or hanging below mountain tops is visually exciting for me.

  14. August 29, 2011 12:08 am

    a.m.a.z.i.n.g!!!! omgosh, I have never heard of a fog bow before, wow, it is gorgeous. I love foggy days and that is certainly something to look out for in future. fabulous photos Thomas.

  15. August 29, 2011 9:31 am

    I’d have bet against that being true, but clearly I’d have lost.

  16. September 3, 2011 7:43 pm

    i love rainbows, and now i have to see a fog bow and moon bow for myself
    thanx for this interesting post about a fascinating natural phenomena

  17. Vicki permalink
    August 12, 2012 12:35 am

    I have just found this post yesterday, having done an online search as to whether fog bows were real or not. I saw one this past week at French Beach on Vancouver Island in a foggy morning. It was awesome but I didn’t know whether or not fog bows were a reality. so thank you for your post. It is a blessing to know that others have also seen them.

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