GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - There's beauty in this winter beast - providing you're willing to brave the elements. Night owls and early risers have been afforded a celestial treat, thanks to distant lights and bitter cold.
They're called Ice Pillars, or Light Pillars -vertical columns of light reflecting off ice crystals in the atmosphere when winds are calm.
"It's something you're likely to see when it's this cold,'' said National Weather Service Meteorologist Wayne Hoepner. "There's lots of ice crystals floating in the atmosphere and what you're seeing are the lights from the ground shining up through it.''
Cold hasn't been a problem. Single-digit temperatures have been recorded 13 days this month, including below zero readings on four occasions, including this morning.
The National Weather service posted an item on its Facebook page about the phenomenon, which is especially impressive at Gerald R. Ford International Airport where the NWS office is located.
Light pillars can be seen any time temperature drops below 10 degrees and there are small ice crystals in the atmosphere, Hoepner said. The colder the air, the more likely you are to see them.
It doesn't matter if there is cloud cover. "All you need are the small ice crystals, even if there's clouds overhead.''
Light pillars can sometimes be seen arising from the moon.
The other cold weather phenomenon you're likely to see on cold winter mornings are Sun Dogs. It's caused by the rising sun reflecting through ice crystals. You can also see them at sunset - usually one Sun Dog on either side of the setting sun, he said.