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Sun Dog Variations

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This photograph taken today by Larry Carlson shows the typical sun dogs but with a twist.  There is another bright light at the top of the arc, forming what appears to be a big, bright smile.  This optical illusion is called a circumzenithal arc.  It is rarer that the standard wintertime sun dogs, but the cause is more or less the same. The sun dogs, the circumzenithal arc, and the halo are all caused by suspended ice crystals in the air which is a result of today's wind and blowing snow.  The source of all the bright light in the photo is the sun.  But ice crystals in the locations of the dogs, the arc, and the halo, are in just the right position to deflect some of the rays headed in their direction into your eyes.  So technically, this is all an optical illusion.  You would not be able to see any of this from an airplane overhead because the lights are not really there.

Attached to this page is another somewhat rare variation of a sun dog; the double sun dog.  This picture was taken Saturday morning by Kathy Reynolds.  a double sun dog is similar to a double rainbow.  If she had used a camera lens wide enough, you would be able to see the sun in the middle and two complete sets of sun dogs on either side for a total of four sun dogs.

Meteorologist John Wheeler

John Wheeler

John was born in Baton Rouge, LA, and grew up near Birmingham, Alabama. As a teenager, his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, and later to a small town in northeast Iowa. John traces his early interest in weather to the difference in climate between Alabama and Wisconsin. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in meteorology. Like any meteorologist, John is intrigued by extremes of weather, especially arctic air outbreaks and winter storms.  John has been known to say he prefers his summers to be hot but in winter, he prefers the cold.  When away from work, John enjoys long-distance running and reading.  John has been a meteorologist at WDAY since May of 1985.

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