An Optical Phenomenon Appears Over Asheville Sky

An Optical Phenomenon Appears Over Asheville Sky

There's a reason Asheville is called Land of Sky and in October it's easy to see why. The sunrises and sunsets offer gorgeous hues and the starry night skies can be incredibly vivid, especially if you go to the outskirts of town away from the lights. Last night we saw something odd in the sky and fortunately someone knows exactly what it was. 

Story submitted by Pamela McCown:

Just before sunset last night – the ice crystals in the cirrus clouds that you can see in the picture created an optical phenomena known as a sundog.
Sundogs, also called parhelia (Greek, meaning “beside the sun”) appear to follow the sun as it moves in the sky -  that is why they are called sundogs.

A little background – cirrus clouds are high, thin, nearly transparent wispy clouds that are made of ice crystals.  Sundogs occur when the ice crystals that form the cirrus
clouds are all aligned vertically so that they refract the sunlight and produce bright spots of light concentrated on either side of the sun.  In many cases there are two spots,
one on each side of the sun. Last night, I was only able to see one sundog that appeared to the south of the sun about 15 minutes before sunset when I took the picture.

Weather lore sayings warn that sundogs can alert us to a coming change to the weather.  In this particular case, the weather lore will prove to be correct.  Last night’s cirrus
clouds were the first sign of increasing moisture ahead of the clouds, rain and colder air that are moving into Western North Carolina tonight and tomorrow.

Interested in a heads-up about the coming winter weather? – (and who isn’t?!)  Join is for the Institute for Climate Education’s next free public seminar:
The Long Range Winter Forecast for Western North Carolina presented by retired NCDC Meteorologist Tom Ross on Tuesday, December 6th at 6:00 p.m. in the Ferguson
Auditorium on A-B Tech’s Asheville campus. Click here for more information.
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