I am a lay person in meteorology, maybe this is not the right place for my question, but I would like to ask then.

My question is simple: is there a website or institute that has integrated statistics on forecasting the occurrence of rainbows in different countries around the world?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I think its unlikely that this exists, . You could possibly calculate a surrogate, by taking day time rainfall totals and daily sunshine hours, and assuming that days where it was sunny and rainy increased the chance of their being a rainbow! For instance thttps://wui.cmsaf.eu/safira/action/viewDoiDetails?acronym=SARAH_V002_01 has daily sunshine data . It would be moderately challenging to process the data globally, and to factor out things like length of day. $\endgroup$
    – Andy M
    Commented May 21, 2021 at 15:47

1 Answer 1


A rainbow is not a physical object that has a position. It is an optical phenomena that depends on your location relative to the sun and rain. If you are standing where your eyes can intercept the colored light, you are standing with your back to the sun and the sunlight is reflecting on raindrops in front of you. Someone else standing in a different location would not necessarily see a rainbow if they looked up at the same part of the sky.

From University of Illinois:

According to Descartes' calculations using laws of optics, the three stage refraction-reflection-refraction pattern that light undergoes when passing through a raindrop produces a concentration of outgoing rays along a line that is 42 degrees above the head of an observer's shadow. This concentration of light rays is the rainbow that we see.

Also this National Geographic article has a nice description:

Viewers on the ground can only see the light reflected by raindrops above the horizon. Because each person's horizon is a little different, no one actually sees a full rainbow from the ground. In fact, no one sees the same rainbow—each person has a different antisolar point, each person has a different horizon. Someone who appears below or near the "end" of a rainbow to one viewer will see another rainbow, extending from his or her own horizon.

What this means is that a rainbow is not really a meteorological occurrence that can be measured or catalogued, because you would get a different answer depending on your reference point. Lightning, in contrast, is a physical phenomena that has a precise location which can be determined and verified from multiple points of reference.

Rainbows are photographed and archived by enthusiasts, but it's really about artistic appreciation. While I have not looked into rainbow forecast services, a quick search shows some interesting resources, such as How to Predict Rainbows and Plan Photographs which has a link to a photography app that can plan for rainbows and here is a rainbow app you can install on your phone.

How Rainbows Happen also has a nice description (shown below) and some other useful resources. enter image description here

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You can still forecast the existence of conditions that would lead to being able to view a rainbow. The question is if anyone does. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 19:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I've updated the post with some links $\endgroup$
    – f.thorpe
    Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 2:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.