A big cool down isn’t exciting for many… but it brings picturesque moments that weather lovers get very excited about.

The most common cold weather phenomenon we see here in North Dakota is the parhelion… also known as the sun dog or mock sun. These are best seen when the sun is near the horizon. Light refracts through ice crystals and at about 22 degrees on either side or both sides of the sun.

A January 2022 sun dog in Berthold

The sun halo is just that…a halo around the sun. This happens when light is refracting off of thin cirrus clouds which are made up of tiny ice crystals. This can happen even when the temperatures at the surface are above freezing because the temperatures are much colder higher in the sky where ice crystal development is supported.

A halo around the sun from Brad and Niki Picard in Bottineau

Another cold weather phenomenon is a halo around the moon. This is the same thing as a sun halo only using moonlight instead of sunlight.

Light pillar: at night, hexagonal-shaped ice crystals in the air reflect light from the city. The shape of the ice crystals creates the pillar shapes. When you see this, you know it’s cold because ice crystals are present in the entire column of air… not just high in the sky. This can also happen during the day with sunlight.

A light pillar from Melissa Hofmann in Medina
Light pillars at night from Alyssa Narum

And if you need a little more action in your life…. when the temperature really plummets to subzero, you can throw hot water in the air and it will evaporate. A fun fact: hot water evaporates and turns to ice crystals faster than colder water because the hot water promotes evaporation which is a cooling process and this speeds up the cooldown and ice crystal formation.

Of course, if you see any of these cold weather phenomena, or try any experiments, send them to the KX Storm Team. We love to see your cold weather photos!