Weather Why: Sun Dogs Explained

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Have you ever noticed the bright glints of sunlight on either side of the sun? These are sun dogs and we are frequently asked about what they are and what causes them.

Sun dogs form when sunlight from the sun hits ice crystals in our atmosphere and causes the light to refract. These are most often to appear during the winter months when the air is colder and ice crystals are more highly concentrated. When the light wave refracts, the light bends and you may even see the varying colors of light. You may even noticed that the sun dogs have a slight appearance of even a rainbow with more of a red tint on the inside of the sun dog towards the sun.

Beyond the sun dog, the perfect alignment may even happen where you notice a sun halo surrounding the sun at about a 22º circle.

The technical name for a sun dog is a parhelia.

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