Light and color of geometric optics rainbows are simulated in their atmospheric environment. Sunlight passes through a molecular atmosphere with ozone and an aerosol layer near the ground to strike a cuboidal rain shaft below an overhanging cuboidal cloud. The rainbows are treated as singly scattered sunbeams that are depleted as they pass through the atmosphere and rain shaft. They appear in a setting illuminated by scattered light from behind the observer, from the background beyond the rain shaft, and from the rain shaft. In dark backgrounds the primary and secondary bows first become visible when the optical thickness of rain shafts τR ≅ 0.0003 and τR ≅ 0.003, respectively. The bows are brightest and most colorful for 0.1≤ τR ≤ 3, a range that is typical for most showers. The peaks of the scattering phase function for raindrops that correspond to the geometric optics rainbow are so pronounced that rainbows remain bright and colorful for optically thick rain shafts seen against dark backgrounds, but the bows appear washed out or vanish as the background brightens or where the rain shaft is shaded by an overhanging cloud. Rainbows also redden as the Sun approaches the horizon.
© 2008 Optical Society of AmericaPDF Article