Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sundogs and solar halos over Wascana

A huge eye loomed over the horizon in Regina, Saskatchewan, yesterday morning.

I tried to capture it from my office, but dirt on polarized windows blurred the bursts of light and rainbows on either side of the sun.

Outside, frigid winds froze the city at minus 37 Centigrade (minus 35 Fahrenheit). I'd just arrived at work. I didn't want to go back out. But I wanted a picture of this ice crystal magic.

The eye in the sky through dark dirty glass. Photo © SB
I know how to dress for winter. Silk, merino, down. Thinsulate. Wind block. Hat, parka, boots, scarf, gloves. Layers and layers and more layers. But cold this extreme leaches through everything. By the time I crossed the road to the park -- a two-minute walk -- my fingertips were numb. By the time I circled back to the office -- a 15 minute walk -- they throbbed with the raw pain of amputation. An oval patch below my uncovered cheekbone stung like sunburn. Frostbite.

Sundogs, solar halos, upper tangent arcs and the rest of these phenomena form when ice crystals in the atmosphere reflect and refract sunlight, and our most stunning ones appear when the weather at ground level is bitterly, brutally cold.

Every time I see them, I see -- and learn -- more.


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