Dogs and Weather—Sun Dogs

August 5, 2013

It’s never pretty when a dog pouts!

Credit: Evelyn Browning Garriss
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Never write a weather blog about your cat if you have a dog. It will pout. It’s never pretty.

To maintain peace in the household, I’ve been forced to write a new blog about weather and dogs. Cats may “predict” weather, but phantom suns are called sun dogs.

Sun dogs, or parhelia, are the canine cousins of rainbows. Sometimes they look like bright pieces of rainbows on either side of the sun. Other times they are brighter and actually look like two extra suns.

Indeed, they are frequently called “mock suns” or “phantom suns”. The most common name, however, for these bright lights that faithfully follow the sun is sun dogs.

Sundogs – Source Wikipedia

Both rainbows and sundogs are formed by moisture filtering the sunlight. Rainbows form when drops of rain act as prisms, breaking sunlight into a multitude of colors. Sundogs appear when sunlight hits clouds of ice crystals and the ice acts as prisms.

Like rainbows, sundogs are created when sunlight is filtered by moisture in the sky. Used by permission HyperPhysics, C.R. Nave Georgia State University http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/atmos/halo22.html

There are some differences, however. You see rainbows when you look away from the sun. You see sundogs when you look toward the sun. If the ice crystals are falling flat, then you see a bright point of light on either side of the sun. (This is easier to see if the sun is rising or setting) Probably the biggest difference between the two is that a rainbow usually signals an end to the rain, while a sundog often means that rain, or snow is on the way.

In medieval times, the three bright lights were sometimes interpreted as the sign of the trinity, a sign of great fortune. Nowadays, they are a sign that you were lucky to be looking at the sky at just the right time. You get to see those faithful companions of our sun—sundogs.

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Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologist, blogger, writer for The Old Farmer's Almanac, and editor of The Browning Newsletter, has advised farmers, businesses, and investors worldwide on upcoming climate events and their economic and social impact for the past 21 years.

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Comments

I love your column!

By Annie Wilhelm

I love your column!

Thank you so much! It's fun

By Evelyn Browning...

Thank you so much!

It's fun being able to blog for the Almanac and share my enjoyment of weather.

Being from Louisiana, I may

By Becky S

Being from Louisiana, I may never see one. But now I have an excuse to go visit up north. That is some cool info. Thanks for posting that.

Thank you! I hope you get to

By Evelyn Browning...

Thank you!

I hope you get to see one.

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