Asia Minute: Taiwan’s Record Rainbow

Dec 5, 2017

Credit Marina Shemesh / Public Domain Pictures

Rainbows have been part of Hawai‘i since the time before people arrived. They’ve become so much a part of the islands’ identity they’re linked with everything from the University of Hawai‘i to plate lunch drive-in’s to the state’s license plate. But elsewhere in the Pacific there was recently a dramatic event involving a rainbow and a new record. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Here’s one fact about rainbows: they don’t last.

That fleeting nature is part of their fragile beauty.

But last week in Taiwan, witnesses say a rainbow lingered. For hours – in fact, for 8 hours and 58 minutes.

The BBC reports that professors and students of the Chinese Culture University in the mountains of Taipei took notice.

A team from the school’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences leapt into action—taking more than 10,000 pictures of the rainbow—in part to document how long it lasted. Raw material for the Guinness Book of World Records.

The current record for a rainbow is six hours. Though the record book notes most last for well less than one hour.

That observation is echoed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the U.S. Geological Survey, which says “the common rainbow is caused by sunlight being reflected by the backs of falling raindrops.”

One of the reasons Hawai‘i has so many is not only the mountain rains, but also the ability to see those rains from a distance – allowing sunshine to filter through as moist air heads to higher altitudes.

As for Taiwan’s record rainbow, several factors came together.

The BBC says those included a seasonal monsoon that trapped moisture in the air—relatively slow wind speeds, and a continuing dose of sunshine.