We’re so used to stories about unusual weather phenomena being bad news, we’ve almost forgotten how the atmosphere can sometimes put on a spectacular, but harmless, show for our enjoyment.

 Nacreous Clouds over Whitley Bay, Northumberland

Early risers across the northern half of the UK earlier this week were treated to the rare sight of nacreous clouds shimmering in the dawn sky.

A number of people were fooled into thinking that they had seen the aurora borealis, but the current conditions rule out sightings of the Northern Lights in the UK.

 Nacreous Clouds over Whitley Bay, Northumberland

Also known as ‘mother-of-pearl clouds’, the opalescent clouds were photographed in various locations in Scotland, Northumberland and North Yorkshire.

Nacreous clouds are formed in the lower stratosphere, usually over polar regions, when the sun sits just below the horizon.

 Nacreous Clouds over Whitley Bay, Northumberland

BBC Scotland weather presenter Christopher Blanchett said that the effects of Storms Gertrude and Henry may have increased the chances of seeing the clouds.

He said: "Iridescent nacreous clouds are as captivating as they are rare.

"These eye-catching rainbow-coloured clouds form in the Earth's stratosphere at around 70,000ft, way above where other clouds are normally found and in much colder air, around -78C.

"Usually it is far too dry at this height for clouds to form, but during the polar winter the temperature can drop low enough to promote the clouds’ development.”

Social media networks have been brimming with spectacular photos of the phenomenon: