Quételét Patterns on Saranac Lake

August 28, 2006

Unusual_rainbow copy

Provided by: Ray Murphy
Summary authors & editors: Les Cowley; Ray Murphy

The photograph above shows an unusual coloration phenomenon on the surface of Middle Saranac Lake (Hungry Bay on the north side of Middle Saranac Lake) in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. It was taken early one morning this past July, after the Sun had dissipated the morning mist, though a few wisps are still visible above the tree-line.

Weather conditions were calm, but the previous day was extremely windy and rainy, and as a result there was a fair amount of pine pollen floating on the water's surface. The bright colored bands are a rarely reported phenomenon called "Quételét Patterns." They're not a rainbow effect. Instead they're produced when pollen lightly dusts a calm lake. The particles are dry and actually ride just above the surface. These small pollen particles scatter light rays, which then interfere with other nearby rays of sunlight reflected off the water surface itself. The result is a color interference pattern not completely unlike those from oil films.

Subtle but nonetheless alluring Quételét Patterns can even be seen on dusty windows. That might pass as an excuse for not cleaning them very often!

Photo taken with a 200 mm lens on a 35 mm SLR camera.

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