COLORADO SPRINGS — A drier than typical winter has given us lots of sunshine, warmer temperatures, and only the occasional smattering of snow in Colorado Springs.

But snow did roll through the area on Thursday, and something about it caught 9-year-old Charlize Fisk’s attention as she and her mother drove through town. Charlize noticed it was sunny over the mountains, but snowing on their car. She wondered whether a rainbow could form while it’s snowing.

Charlize and her mother sent the question in to FOX21 Chief Meteorologist Matt Meister.

“Rainbows during snow storms are really rare,” Meister responded. “It takes a special case of temperatures not being too low. If it’s around freezing, small raindrops occasionally accompany snow and could form a rainbow that shines through the snow.”

Here’s why: Rainbows need spherical raindrops to form. Sunlight enters a drop, a process called refraction changes the light’s direction, and it bounces off the sphere’s opposite side before leaving the drop. The entrance and exit refractions split the light into rainbow colors.

“We see a rainbow only when the raindrops are near perfectly round, and a snowflake with all its icy intricate surfaces and angles just cannot make one,” Meister said. “But people occasionally mistake some ice halos for rainbows.”

That happens when sunlight, passing through tiny hexagon-shaped ice crystals in the form of plates and long columns, creates colorful halos, sundogs, circumzenithal arcs (sometimes called “upside-down rainbows”), 22-degree halos, and other optical features.

“But again, these halos need simple and optically perfect crystals. Snowflakes and their more erratic shapes can sometimes produce a sun pillar, but no other halos,” Meister noted.

Great question, Charlize!