Ice, Sun dogs and Parhelic Circle

It’s been cold this February in Maine—by local accounts, we’ve had more ice in Portland Harbor than has been seen in decades, and the Coast Guard has been using it’s ice breaking ship to keep the harbor navigable. However, “navigable” is relative; smaller boats have not been able to escape the harbor due to the ice buildup, which has now even reached Peaks Island:

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View looking north along western edge of Peaks Island.

 

The cold weather means that small animals (such as a recently sighted mink) can even make the trek from Peaks Island to neighboring House Island (mink not in this photo):

 

 

View from Peaks Island to House Island at -20 C.

View from Peaks Island to House Island at -20 C.

 

Just the other day (Feb 16, 2015), on a frigid walk around the island with my daughter, we spotted a beautiful sun dog—an optical phenomenon caused by reflection & refraction through ice crystals in the atmosphere. The two opposite rainbow arcs are formed when the light refracts through a minimum deviation of 22 degrees:

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Sundog from back shore of Peaks Island, ME.

Sometimes, but apparently much more rarely, one can see a parhelic circle extending from either sundog part way around the sky. On this morning, the arc extended more than half  way around the sky, and I took this panoramic image before my iphone6+ battery totally tanked in the -18 C temperatures:

Parhelic Circle extending from a sun dog on Feb 16, 2015 on Peaks Island, ME

Parhelic Circle extending from a sun dog on Feb 16, 2015 on Peaks Island, ME

 

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