Refraction and arctic solar canines

Both for work and my own interest, I am reading Richard Alley’s The Two Mile Time Machine, as recommended back in Oxford by Henry Shue. A relatively informal history of ice core science, it also includes some interesting facts and observations about the polar regions. For instance, I learned about the phenomenon of sun dogs or parhelions.

In the Arctic, ice crystals in cirrus and cirrostratus clouds sometimes produce a refractive effect, framing the sun with a pair of luminous partners. It gladdens me somewhat to know that the Arctic summer has at least one visual effect to compensate for the drowning out of the Northern Lights by constant sunlight. I once had the good fortune Aurora Borealis myself – from Neal’s balcony in the Gage Towers during a period of exceptional ionic activity in the upper atmosphere. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to see a sun dog before the Arctic changes beyond all recognition.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

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