Sun dogs in Canada

February 9, 2014 • 4:11 pm

I really shouldn’t publish any more of Diana MacPherson’s photos until she stops vandalizing the toilet rolls of her friends and in restaurants, but these were too good not to post. They are of a solar phenomenon that I would describe, but I’ve been writing all day and am too tired to look it up. So I’ll let the readers explain it.

The upside of cold weather are sun dogs (parhelion)! I captured this one a few minutes ago outside my house!
Sun Dog Sunset
And here is the solar pillar which usually appears at the same time. This is a pretty good one as it went way up.
Solar Pillar
I must say that I’ve never seen this phenomenon.

65 thoughts on “Sun dogs in Canada

    1. Thanks! It’s the upside (along with clear skies) of cold weather. I hate that we get long nights and clear skies when it is so horribly cold outside! I need an observatory!

      1. I’m pretty sure i saw this same phenomenon mid summer, in Waukesha, WI as i finished a bike ride. I took pictures, but i’ll have to dig it up.

        For sake of argument, assume it is the same phenomenon: both can’t be explained by cold it seems.

        Other theories?

        1. It’s crystals in the atmosphere. It may not be cold down where you are, but it’s cold where the crystals form. I suspect there is greater chance of seeing the phenomenon in the winter because perhaps it is more cold up there more often.

  1. Well, at least I clean my boots now. They never looked cleaner. Not correcting toilet paper – that’s a tall order.

    This from Wikipedia: Sun dogs are a:

    ….refraction of light from plate-shaped hexagonal ice crystals in high and cold cirrus clouds or, during very cold weather, these ice crystals are called diamond dust, and drift in the air at low levels. These crystals act as prisms, bending the light rays passing through them with a minimum deflection of 22Β°. If the crystals are randomly oriented, a complete ring around the sun is seen β€” a halo. But often, as the crystals sink through the air, they become vertically aligned, so sunlight is refracted horizontally β€” in this case, sundogs are seen.

    Solar pillars (or light pillars):

    A light pillar is a visual phenomenon created by the reflection of light from ice crystals with near horizontal parallel planar surfaces. The light can come from the Sun (usually at or low to the horizon) in which case the phenomenon is called a sun pillar or solar pillar. It can also come from the Moon or from terrestrial sources such as streetlights

    1. Earlier this winter I saw a full rainbow like ring around the rising sun on a very cold morning. It was the first time in my life that I’ve seen something like that.

  2. Allow me to explain: A parhelion or “sundog” is caused by the sunlight reflecting off of the chemtrails that are placed in the atmosphere my secret government decree for a variety of nefarious purposes

  3. I immigrated to Michigan 37 years ago from a warm place and on very cold winter nights I’d occasionally see these vertical beams of light going up from streetlights. I thought I there was something wrong with my eyes (or some kind of sign from god). I just learned what they are: light pillars. Thank you.

  4. Diana,
    As far as I can tell there’s only a fifty percent chance that you are vandalizing the rolls.
    Over or under?

          1. I was just thinking of looking for that to link to. It’s an absolute classic. Each step Peter Sellars takes is entirely logical yet you can see exactly where he’s going to end up. He was a genius.

          2. One of my all time favourite movies.
            I must have seen it around a dozen times.
            It is where I got the saying ‘birdie num num’ which I yell out when leaving bread outside for the crows (I mentioned this in the post about the raven).

          3. LOL – birdee numnums…I had forgotten about his wiping the paint off the Chagall…and his realllllly long tie.

          1. “Under” is wrong, and against all the laws of nature as it makes it harder for us catz to unroll the whole roll!

          2. It’s total inversions of the natural order of things, as ordained by the Bible – probably – like this toilet roll heresy that is causing all the floods and droughts in the world. Mark my ramblings.

  5. I’ve seen these recently while driving through Iowa, when it was very, very cold.

    It was like unto a pillar of light, leading us through the wasteland unto the Promised Land of lutefisk and lefse.

    [Geez, is that how these things start?]

    1. My parents call an effect where you see rays of sunlight poking through clouds, “Jesus clouds” because you always see pictures of clouds like that on religious greeting cards.

      1. My parents used to say it was God drawing up the water into the sky.

        They are called crepuscular rays and are of course actually parallel to each other. Less often anti-crepuscular rays can be seen, which appear to converge on a point opposite the sun.

      2. I think of them as solar pyramids, because I read somewhere that this was the effect the Egyptian pyramid builders were trying to mimic.
        It makes sense that the Jesus cult would adopt such solar imagery, as the death-&-resurrection plot is so transparently about daily & annual solar cycles.

  6. Another thing that happens when it’s really cold is the smoke coming out of chimneys just descends down the side of the chimney. My organic chem professor was Canadian and told me that they’d look out the window at the stack from the power plant on cold winter mornings to tell just how cold it was. I watched for this when in Sweden and finally saw it one particularly cold morning.

    1. I saw that with the -25 C temps a few weeks back, while I was driving to work. You know it’s way, way too cold when you see that & you wonder why you are out in it!

  7. Jerry, I think if you now take a moment to check for a sun pillar each time you see a sunrise or sunset, you will soon notice one. Sometimes the effect isn’t all that strong but this is the best time of year to see one.

    I notice them quite often here and this isn’t usually a crispy cold kind of place.

  8. I wonder if Diana has figured out how to vandalize/hack those huge locked (!) tp containers in public bathrooms…

      1. But many of those dispensers have rolls that roll parallel to the wall rather than perpendicular.

        So what is the correct direction of roll in that case? Toward or away from the…er…client?

          1. You’ll just need to subvert the custodian away from the true path and lead him or her into the ways of darkness.

          2. Yes, it seems very august. I imagine there are white velvety gloves involved. πŸ™‚

            Do you mean when it is sideways? I think you can still get it to go under vs. over. Ant told me he has a dispenser like this.

          3. We may need to organize a field trip to everyone’s bathrooms, complete with kittehs doing demos…

  9. I know it sounds weird, I think I saw a similar phenomena quite frequently on my early morning commutes around the northern portion of the capitol beltway in 2004 to 2005. I have not seen it as often as then, but I still occasionally observe it.

    As I understand it, it is caused by the way ice crystals form in the upper atmosphere and how they then focus or reflect light.

  10. The Wikipedia info is correct, and as a pilot from Manitoba, I see variations of this effect very frequently. The same basic reflection is at work in a rainbow, and sometimes you get a little separation of light into colours with sun-dogs. If the effect is strong, you’ll get two concentric circles (or double sun-dogs), and any colours will be reversed as in a double rainbow.

    The orientation of the effect tells you the orientation of the ice crystals in the atmosphere. If the sun-dogs are pillars on either side of the sun (or moon, if it is full), the crystals are oriented vertically. If you see a vertical pillar on top of the sun, then they are mostly horizontal. Sometimes you get both, or a complete mix, in which case you see a ring around the sun. The same thing happens with full moons, but you probably have to be in an area with low light pollution to see it.

  11. Perhaps the toilet paper controversy would be better described as whether the free end goes in front or behind. My family’s tradition, and the preference of at least some roommates, is having the free end in front. In my experience either is equally susceptible to misuse by kids.

    I hesitate to bring this up, but I’ve gone Japanese and use a washlet, a high-tech variant of a bidet, and don’t use paper any more. A stream of warm water, followed by a blowing of hot air, does a much better job of cleaning your butt than paper, it turns out. It’s a pretty pricey apparatus, but one I can recommend without reservation.

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