FAIRBANKS, Ak – Kerrie Simmons is a meteorologist, and recent Virginia Tech graduate, who works at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks. Wednesday, she posted the picture above of an incredibly well-defined sundog.
Sundogs are a not-so-rare sight even in Virginia. You oftentimes see these develop when high-level, cirrus clouds are present. The ice crystals are shaped like plates, and float gently down.
As they do so, sunlight enters the plates and is bent two different times.
In Wednesday’s case, it also appears that the snow on the ground and ice closer to the ground helped refract the sunlight in a similar fashion. The high temperature in Fairbanks was only -9° Wednesday, which would explain the ice crystals being so close to the ground.
It also helps that the sun was low on the horizon at the time the picture was taken. You’ll see this happen more often in northern latitudes, and it can often result in somewhat of a halo effect too.