How Rare Are These Light Pillars We Keep Seeing in Michigan?
It was nearly one year ago that I first learned about the weather phenomenon known as Light Pillars.
Basically, when ice crystals are hovering in the air, they can reflect a nearby light source which causes these light pillars. Read more below:
When I initially wrote the above article, all of the information I found seemed to indicate that it was an incredibly rare instance where all the conditions had to be just right for these light pillars to form and be seen.
But, here we are a year later seeing the same exact thing. So, how rare are they, really?
Around here in SW Michigan? Pretty rare.
According to scienceabc.com, light pillars are normally seen in arctic conditions where temps hover around -10 to -20 degrees. However, the article goes on to explain that they've also been spotted in desert regions like Iran after nightfall when temperatures dropped dramatically.
This morning in Kalamazoo, the temperature at the time these photos were taken was around 4 degrees which, perhaps, is why they were so easily noticed:
I took this next photo in front of the radio station when I arrived this morning. While you can't see the light pillar as clearly, it shows the presence of ice crystals hanging in the air:
Keep in mind, if you happen to spot a light pillar, it might be a different color as they take on the hue of the light they're reflecting as seen in Minnesota earlier this month:
As well, there are different kinds of light pillars.
There are the ones we're spotting in SW Michigan (and Minnesota, too) and, there are also sun pillars. According to foxweather.com, Sun Pillars can occur at either sunrise or sunset when the sun's light passes through a layer of ice crystals in the clouds.
It's a breathtaking sight, to be sure. Even if it's not AS rare as I originally believed, stepping out into the frigid conditions and seeing ice hovering in the air is enough to make you almost like being in temps that cold. Almost.
If you happen to be up a few hours before the sun, take a quick peek outside. You never know when you might spot a few light pillars shooting up into the sky.