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WEATHER U: Cold can be beautiful!

Sunlight or candlelight? Wanda Boutilier spotted this lovely sun pillar as the sun came up in Mushaboom N.S. last Friday.
Sunlight or candlelight? Wanda Boutilier spotted this lovely sun pillar as the sun came up in Mushaboom N.S. last Friday. - Contributed

Everybody is talking about how cold it is for December.  It is.

On average, the daytime highs are running four to seven degrees below normal.  That is significant but there is not a thing we can do about it except try to find beauty in it.  Judging by the number of gorgeous photos I’ve received since the arctic air mass moved in, many of you have.

Wanda Boutilier’s photo of a sun pillar was the first one to cross my desk.  It was taken Friday morning.  I’ve since received quite a number of similar photos.  Many people believe these shafts of light to be sun dogs, but they are in fact sun pillars.

A sun pillar is a narrow column of light that reaches straight up from the rising or setting sun.  These form when sunlight reflects off the surfaces of falling ice crystals.  Most times, those ice crystals are associated with thin, high-level cirrostratus clouds.  The crystals responsible for light pillars usually consist of flat, hexagonal plates, which tend to fall more or less horizontally through the air.  Their surfaces act as giant mirrors, reflecting light up – and sometimes down; the bigger the crystals, the more pronounced this effect.  These shafts of light are at their best within a few minutes of sunrise or sunset.  They are much more common when arctic air sinks down over the region and the necessary ice crystals are plentiful.

A little science to help Mother Nature with the magic!

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