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What is a Sundog?

By April 28, 2007

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A recent reader sent an email...

Can you please tell me what a sundog is indicative of? I know it has something to do with cold and ice crystals in the air but according to folklore, what is it a predictor of? Anything?

Several tales of the appearance of sundogs have existed in popular culture. Some say a sundog brings good luck when spotted on a long journey, others say it will bring a radical change in weather conditions, such as rain. Amazingly, like many types of weather folklore, there may be some truth to the tales. Before the advent of modern technology, people often explained the weather in the easiest way possible...by talking about it! Making rhymes, sayings, and predictions about the weather was (in a way) an early form of weather broadcasting.

According to the of NOAA National Weather Service Central Region Headquarters, a ring of light is sometimes visible around the sun or moon. When this happens, itís because light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere. Another solar phenomenon is the sundog or mock sun. It also produced by refraction of light through ice crystals. When the sun is near the horizon, a sundog would appear as brightly colored spots on either side of the sun. This means there are more clouds with ice crystals and therefore wetter weather may be on the way! For a more in-depth explanation, go to this great online textbook on weather forecasting.

As an example, the saying below can really work!

Red sky in the morning, sailors' take warning.

Red sky at night, sailors' delight

Reason? A red color to the sky mean more sunlight is filtered through more water vapor. The more water vapor there is in the atmosphere, the more clouds there are. Hence, sailors have to watch out for rain and possibly storms. If the red sky appeared to the mariner at night, the bad weather was behind him!

Finally, has anyone out there tried Google Books yet? Here are some great books on weather folklore. Read and enjoy because they are free books! Plus, I have listed some of my other resources on weather folklore. If you know of more, please email me and let me know!

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