Scientists predict that there will be more rainbows in the world

(ORDO NEWS) — One of the most unusual consequences of extreme climate change could be an increase in the frequency of rainbows on the globe by as much as 5 percent by 2100.

In a new study modeling the less obvious impacts of climate change, scientists estimate this increase in terms of the number of days per year with conditions suitable for seeing at least one rainbow.

Using crowd imagery, global climate data and a computer model, the scientists found that 21 to 34 percent of areas will experience fewer such “rainbow days” and 66 percent to 79 percent will have more rainbows as the climate warms.

While more rainbows may not be much comfort in the face of widespread drought and torrential flooding, the research team wants smaller shifts like this to be factored into climate change projections to highlight just how much our natural world could change.

“Living in Hawaii, I was grateful that stunning, ephemeral rainbows were part of my daily routine,” says Kimberly Carlson, a land systems scientist now at New York University. “I was wondering how climate change might affect the ability to see such rainbows.”

The predictions were made by examining tens of thousands of photos of rainbows that are publicly available on the Flickr photo-sharing site. If the location was fixed, these images were compared with maps of precipitation, cloudiness, and the angle of the Sun.

The team then used this real-world data to train a model to predict global climate change in the coming years. They found that areas with smaller populations at higher altitudes and higher latitudes, such as the Tibetan Plateau, would benefit the most from an overall increase in rainbow days.

If you want to be in the best places to see rainbows in the coming years, you need to head to the islands. In particular, islands like Hawaii will remain rainbow hotspots due to their topography.

“This is because the island’s topography lifts the air during daily sea breezes, causing localized showers surrounded by clear skies that let the Sun through, creating majestic rainbows,” says atmospheric scientist Steven Businger of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The researchers did not delve into the discussion of how such changes in the frequency of rainbows can affect our attitude to life or well-being, but they talked about the long common history of the rainbow that has permeated human culture around the world since ancient times.

And it is worth thinking about the connection that phenomena such as rainbows (as well as mirages and aurora) establish between humanity and nature. Part of the challenge of successfully overcoming the climate crisis is getting people to care enough about their nature to want to protect it.

In densely populated and presumably smoky areas, as well as areas forecast to have more dry days and less rainfall, fewer rainbows are expected – a sobering reminder of what we could all lose.

The team behind the new study wants more attention to be given to those parts of our earth system that can’t be touched or easily quantified, and that can influence our well-being and sense of connection in more subtle ways.

“Climate change will lead to pervasive changes in every aspect of the human experience on Earth,” Carlson says. “Changes in intangible parts of our environment – such as sound and light – are part of this change and deserve more attention from researchers.”


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