PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan woke up to some bitterly cold temperatures Monday morning — the lows were the coldest we’ve experienced in a full year!
But it also set us up for some amazing displays outside.
Arctic air can physically hold very little moisture, making it exceptional for optical phenomena like sun dogs.
When the sun climbed over the horizon Monday morning, the light erupted in a perfect 22 degree halo, with matching sun dogs on either side of the sun, a sun pillar shooting up from the center, and a hint of a tangent arc on the top of the halo. Kelly Clouse took this shot of the moment over Versluis Lake in Plainfield Township:
Here is another view over the same lake from Eliane Flemming:
On humid days when there is too much moisture in the air, the light from the sun gets refracted and reflected so much that is destroys any optical designs. Even rainbows can look fuzzier when they happen in moisture-rich environments.
For a 22 degree halo and sun dogs to occur, the ice crystals must all be the same size and shape. This helps bounce the light around in a special way.
Sun dogs and 22 degree halos are the most common display we see in the sky. Sun dogs on either side of the sun will always appear at the same degree in the sky as the sun. They can look like splashes of rainbows and will always appear with the red part of the rainbow closest to the sun.