Dorothy would have been right at home singing in Steamboat Springs this summer.
“I’ve lived here a long time, and I don’t ever recall seeing so many spectacular rainbows,” says Art Judson, a climatological observer for the National Weather Service. While Steamboat is well-positioned for rainbows — there are no western mountains blocking late-afternoon sunlight — Judson says it’s odd that there were so many this year given how dry the summer was. “We were just lucky,” he says. “It was just happenstance that the timing was just right.”
Other meteorologists agree. “I’m not sure why there were so many of them,” says Jim Pringle, of the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office. “But they can happen anytime when rain is falling — it doesn’t even have to reach the ground.”
That phenomenon — when rain evaporates before it reaches the ground — is called “virga,” and it could be responsible the kaleidoscope of colors arcing over the Yampa Valley this season. “There were fewer showers than normal this year,” Pringle says. “It’s probably just a result of being in the right place at the right time.”
Or, adds longtime local Moose Barrows, “Maybe it’s just the Earth telling us we need to appreciate water more.”
Scientifically verified or not, Steamboat was prettier than usual whenever they arced overhead. “I don’t know of anyone actually counting them, but it would be interesting to compare year to year,” Judson says.