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Wed, 06 Jan 2010
Thunderstorms, Rainbows, Lightning, Hailstones, Mare's Tails, Woolpack and Mackerel, all in the SKY.

Rainbow colours

       Mackerel Sky OK! I can hear you all saying what has a thunderstorm got to do with Rainbows. Well listen, and I'll tell you a small story from a small while ago;
Down by the sea are the old fishermen, mending their nets or lobster-pots beside the upturned boats on the shore; up near the cottage on the road to the hills is the shepherd, whistling for his faithful dog. Those are the people to ask whether it is likely to be a good day for a sail or a picnic on the moor. They do not tap barometers ; they look at the sky and read the weather news there.
It is not easy to learn to forecast the weather in this way; but some of the signs are plainer than others. A thunderstorm sometimes comes as a complete surprise ; at other times the sky gives hints of what is to come along before the storm breaks.
Mare's Tail Sky
      It seems that all clouds are made up of countless droplets of water, each with a speck of dust in its heart, and all are formed in the same way from the cooled water-vapour brought up from the earth by warm air currents ; but clouds are very strange and come in many different shapes and sizes, from wispy "Mare's tails " and the little flecks of a "Mackerel sky " as spotted as the fish's skin - to the billowy white " Wool-packs " and the still heavier banks of dark storm-clouds.
        Very often when thunder is coming the "Wool-pack clouds Woolpack Sky, in Aberdeen, North Carolinawith their rounded tops grow darker and darker, though their silver linings may still be seen for a while, and the ragged grey rain clouds gather together in dark masses. Then a strange orange glow spreads  across the skies, and it feels like the air around you is still and heavy. 
Thunderstorms are most common in  hot weather, when the atmosphere becomes so sticky and stuffy that it makes people tired and miserable with headaches. At home in Groes where I used to live we used to be tormented by tiny black flies that we used to call thunder bugs, and by the time the storm actually arrived the window sills used to be covered in the tiny bugs, the size of a pin head if I remember rightly. The strange thing was, when the thunder came and the storm was over, they were all gone, vanished into what was now thin air!
      When I was very small and we lived in Bontnewydd, which was deep in a valley, with high reaches on either side,  when the thunder and lightning came it would travel up and down the valley, which was an amazing sight.
    Just before the storm breaks there is often a short but heavy rain fall, and the wind would get up and turn cold, this was then followed by another heavy rain often with hail-stones mixed with the massive drops. Then the lightning begins to flash across the sky, not always the same kind of lightning.
 Electric ... moment fork lightning bolt struck erupting volcano
Sometimes huge forks cracked from the sky like dragons tongues licking their way down to the valley, then after the flash would come the thunder. We used to count between the lightning and thunder to see how close it was. I quite liked the fork lightning but not the sheet lightning, though my Mum said this one was the safest. As the wind moved the clouds through the valley so the storm would get closer, then there would be an almighty flash of light followed by an huge crack of thunder, so loud that the whole cottage would shake with the noise. Dad sheet lightening above the cloudssaid it was Thor throwing his hammer around in the Heavens and Zeus was replying by throwing bolts of lightning at him. I never had the heart to tell him that they were both from a different type of mythology.
      But that was long ago, and I can honestly say that apart from when I lived abroad, I haven't seen a good thunderstorm since the eighties. Lightning is a giant electrical spark, most of the flashes pass from cloud to cloud, this is the sheet lightning and we don't often hear the thunder when that one is playing with the clouds.  Where as the fork lightning is more violent and it sends a rush of electricity from place to place,  it is this that causes the thunder, for thunder is the noise made as the heated air expands at the touch of the lightning.
      Of course the lightning in the sky is a very long way  off, and as light travels nearly a million times as fast as sound, the flash is seen from the earth a moment or two before the sound of the thunder is heard, although both occur in the clouds at the same time. Rainbow 
        There are some great stores of electricity in the clouds, and it is when these are upset in various ways that the thunder comes to visit us. Even when the weather seems calm, the air high up is constantly moving, sometimes it moves in strange swirls and whirls, sometimes in cold streams that flow in under masses of warmer air and cool the water-vapour in them till rain drops begin to form and fall. So we have sheet lightning that plays above the clouds jumping from one to the other, then we have the dragon flashes that streak down to the earth without care or leave where they land. Then we have the dragon tongues that occasionally lick the earth, not always but sometimes they can  start fires, cause serious damage to homes and buildings. Even people can be killed by these flashes if they get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just remember to keep away from trees and high places, best still try to be some-where snug and warm.
      rainbow rock
stars Well the storm passes, usually very quickly, the rain ceases ; no more lightning is seen, and there is not even a mutter of thunder among the hills.  As the clouds move gently apart a lovely light is shed from beyond them. This often causes a rainbow to appear in the sky, for the fine raindrops still falling from some of the clouds catch the sunlight and break it up into its different colours : red, orange, yellow, green, blue. indigo, violet. Sometimes there is a second, fainter rainbow, and in it the bands of colour are in the opposite direction, starting wiith violet, indigo through to red.
      The clearest rainbows are seen when the sun is low in the sky, either in the east in the morning or in the west in the afternoon. The nearest the sun is to the horizon , the more nearly complete is the bow or arc. Rainbows, like thunderstorms are more common in the summer than in the winter, and usually after a heavy shower or thunderstorm than a long steady downpour from a dull-grey sky.
      But you can see a rainbow in many places, when you next take a trip on a boat or ferry. Look at the spray cast up by the prow, the rainbow is in every drop of water. One of my most favourite rainbows can be seen in the dew drops on a spring morning. Go for a walk to the woods, along a country path, in a country park, but it must be whilst the dew drops are hanging from the leaves. If you are really lucky and you move your eyes so slowly once you get the first colour, you can see all the colours in the one tiny dew drop, the sun shines through the watery droplet as it rises. All the colours of the rainbow intense colour, shimmering, glinting like precious gems, so wonderful. Oh gosh Seligor does get carried away when she describes these beautiful refraction of colours. Oh goodness I have just thought of another way to see a rainbow,  BUBBLES! of course, so simple, get mum to buy you a pot of bubbles and blow them towards the sunlight. Hundreds of little rainbows popping all around you.

Brilliant, Fantastic.  stewy
  So long as you have the early morning sun and the dew, you have a  RAINBOW.
After the storm everything is peaceful and beautiful, shining drops run off the trees and leave them very fresh and green, the drooping flowers raise their heads again, and one after another the birds begin to sing.
The gist for this little tale came from Maribel Edwin, I have just added a few thoughts of my own, for I do so love the weather we have in Wales.. 
Posted 18:40

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