Friday, December 5, 2008

Sun Dogs

Wild Plants and Wooly Bears

As the sun drops behind the pines on the ridge in back of my house, I am surprised to see a prominent sun dog a few degrees east of the setting orb. And while my new, The American Heritage Dictionary carries no description of a sun dog, my 1969 Merriam-Webster dictionary does. It says, “A small nearly rounded halo on the parhelic circle most frequently just outside the halo of 22 degrees.” Of course to a non-scientist, this sounds like gobbledygook.

Not to pick a scrap with Merriam-Webster, but I have never seen a round sun dog. In every case, sun dogs that I witnessed were in the shape of a bar. These show the color spectrum the same as a rainbow.

Anyway, sun dogs precede storms. I think I heard something once about ice crystals in the atmosphere reflecting the sun’s rays, and thus a sun dog. I’m not certain if that’s so, but I do know that a sun dog is about the most reliable weather indicator going. When a sun dog appears in the afternoon sky, it’s for certain that a storm is neigh.

While one sun dog is a sure sign of oncoming bad weather, two give an infallible testimony. Tomorrow’s storm probably won’t be too severe, because I only saw a single sun dog.

By the way, I have also seen the word spelled sundog. But since Merriam-Webster was kind enough to include a description in their dictionary, I’ll adhere to their spelling…sun dog.

So call them sun dogs or sundogs, it doesn’t really matter. But remember that they are reliable weather prognosticators.

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