Sundogs: How are they made?

Weather News

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Sundogs are a sight to behold, but what exactly goes into making them?

On Monday morning as the sun was rising, ice crystals in some cirrus clouds refracted the sun’s light, creating what is known as a sundog.

A sundog is a colored area of light that is caused by the refraction of the sun’s light. The colored area of light is typically seen in the form of a small rainbow.

Ice crystals and water droplets mixed with sunlight are the building blocks needed to produce sundogs.

When the conditions are just right in the atmosphere, ice crystals and water droplets can act as a prism, creating a rainbow effect.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), refraction is the change in direction of a wave, or light in this case, due to a change in its speed.

Sundogs are typically located at approximately 22 degrees to the left, right, or both of the sun, depending on where the ice crystals are present.

The NWS stated that the colors of a sundog typically start with red closest to the sun with blue on the outside of the sundog (farthest from the sun).

Sundogs are also known as mock suns or parhelia, which means “with the sun”.


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