There are a lot of hoax or fake weather pictures on social media, but the viral pictures of a rose-colored cloud in Turkey are legitimate. On January 19th, 2023, a strange cloud appeared above the Bursa province. Here’s an explanation of the cloud and its magnificent color.
I was not aware of the viral pictures until a friend from college tagged me on Twitter asking for an explanation. When I saw the picture, it was clearly an example of a lenticular cloud. In May 2023, I actually wrote a piece in Forbes about five meteorological things often called UFOs, and lenticular clouds were among them. According to a NASA website, the form when, “Strong winds blow across complex terrain, causing the water vapor in the air mass to alternately compress, then decompress, and thus condense into shapes which roughly mirror the terrain beneath.”
The technical term for lenticular cloud is lenticularis, which according to American Meteorological Society (AMS) Glossary is, “A cloud species the elements of which have the form of more or less isolated, generally smooth lenses or almonds; the outlines are sharp and sometimes show irisation.” Ok, Dr. Shepherd, what is irisation? It is the color displayed by iridescent clouds. The AMS glossary goes on to say, “Irisation results from an optical diffraction phenomenon, usually of several orders.” Cloud droplets or ice particles actually cause light to spread out or bend when passing through a narrow portion or across one of the edges. In certain types of clouds (pileus, lenticular, and certain types of cirrus), brilliant colors can be seen.
The viral pictures from Turkey were taken at or near sunrise, which likely also explains the color palette. During sunrise or sunset, the sun is lower on the horizon. Light travels through a greater portion of the atmosphere causing shorter wavelengths of light like blue and violet to be scattered. This allows the longer wavelength colors of visible light (yellow, orange, and red) to be more apparent. If the air is dusty or polluted, the orange-red colors can be even more vibrant.
Keep looking up. There is often really cool things to see.