Solar pillar and contrails . . . Oh My!

From the Institute for Climate Education at A-B Tech:  Last week: Western North Carolina enjoyed some beautiful weather since the rain moved out on Wednesday, May 9. Those mostly clear skies set the stage for a beautiful sunset on Thursday, evening, May 10 — with some atmospheric optics to boot!

The image above was shot about 4 minutes after the sun dipped below the mountain May 10. The high, thin, wispy clouds painted gold by the setting sun are called cirrus clouds and are made of ice crystals (as opposed to liquid droplets that makes up most other clouds, including the darker clouds to the right). Also visible are at least 10 contrails (short for condensation trails) produced by condensation of water vapor in the exhaust of aircraft jet engines.

The six-sided, plate-like ice crystals that form the cirrus clouds can create some very interesting optical phenomena, depending on how they are aligned within the clouds. In this case — the crystals are aligned horizontally, so that the light from the sun reflects off of the bottom side of the crystal, creating a vertical solar pillar. When the crystals are aligned vertically — we can see sun dogs (see the October 27, 2011, account here).

Weatherlore says that the appearance of solar pillars, sundogs and halos may herald the coming of stormy weather in a few days. In this case — it was true. But first came more cirrus clouds, ahead of the storm system that is expected to bring rain into the region over Mothers Day weekend.

Are you interested in learning about severe weather?  Join us on Saturday, June 2, for a FREE Severe Weather Workshop. The Institute is hosting Basic and Advanced Skywarn severe weather spotter training by the National Weather Service from 9:30 am – 2:30 pm on the A-B Tech Asheville campus. Who should attend?  Anyone interested in learning more about the weather!  While the event is offered free of charge, we are asking participants to pre-register by May 31.  For more information on the event and how to register, visit the Institute’s website here. I do hope you’ll join us for this great opportunity!


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.