Cold Snap

Sunrise with parhelia over Fairbanks.

This time last week it was in the mid-thirties and raining. This morning it was thirty below zero. That’s almost a 70 degree drop in temperature in a week!

Cold Valley
Around 1:00 pm looking over the Tanana Valley to the Alaska Range.

I brought my camera to work today and got a few pictures of the sunrise. It now rises over the Alaska Range, and there was just enough ice in the air to create some parhelia, or sundogs, and some pretty powerful light pillars. The color was really nice through the fog.

Frosty Lee
After walking around a bit I had a good build-up of ice on my moustache and beard, and a little frostbite on my thumb. At one point my cheek stuck to the camera.

At sunset there was a superior mirage of the Alaska Range. This happens in times of temperature inversion, which is fairly frequent during winter in the interior of Alaska. This just means that warm air sits on top of the colder air in the valley. For a short time many of the mountains appeared to be inverted above the actual mountain range. Because the density of the air changes so rapidly, light from the top of the mountains is bent much more than light from the bottom giving the illusion of sort of a mountain ‘forest’. Denali was looming over itself!

Superior Mirage
Superior mirage over the Alaska Range, with Denali in the center right. Click to enlarge.

I really can’t believe how many atmospheric optic effects occur here. It’s really, really cool.


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