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Forecast Storms

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Science

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Forecast Storms




If you know where and when to look, you can treat yourself to a colourful display of atmospheric haloes, spots and pillars. These images can tell you something about the clouds overhead and possible changes in the weather. All of these images are created by light shining through cirrostratus clouds. These clouds occur at an altitude of 6,000-12,000 metres. They appear as a thin sheet or layer (strata) that is pure white. The layer of cloud is so thin (only 100-450 metres) that is doesn't obscure the sun or moon, so you should be able to see your shadow. Cirrostratus is made of many types of ice crystals. However, four crystal shapes are responsible for producing most of the commonly see haloes-plate crystals, columns, capped columns and bullets. The most obvious halo is found around the sun. If the layer of cirrostratus is extensive, you'll see an entire ring. Within the layer of cloud, sunlight is striking and passing through the sides of randomly-oriented ice crystals. As the sunlight passes through each crystal, the light changes direction, or refracts. The radius of the hale depends on the amount of change in the direction of the sun's light. Usually this is 22 degrees. Since the sun is 1/2 of a degree across, the radius of the halo is 44 sun-widths. Occasionally you may see a second halo at 46 degrees from the sun (that is, with a radius of 92 sun-widths). This is produced by sunlight passing through both the side and bottom of each crystal. Moonlight will also produce a halo, around the moon, with the proper layer of cirrostatus. Another common optical effect is known as ?mock suns? or 'sun dogs? or ?parhelia? (...

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