By: Meteorologist Courtney Steimann
Updated: Apr 5th 2019

Courtney's Cloud Corner: Sun Pillars

These beautiful beams of light are formed in similar ways as Halos and Sundogs. Much like Halos and Sundogs discussed in Courtney’s Cloud Corner: Sundogs and Halos, Sun Pillars need high level clouds to produce the beautiful beam of light. They need these types of clouds because these clouds are cold enough to produce hexagonal ice crystals. Once light hits these falling ice crystals, the light is reflected to show the beaming light upwards or downwards from the sun. This is different from its optical phenomena friends, the halo and the Sundog. For Sundogs and Halos are produced from the light refraction from the falling hexagonal ice crystal. Sun pillars are reflected. Reflection is when the light wave hits the surface of the ice crystal and bounces off. Refractions is when there is a change in direction of the light wave, and the wave is bent when it passes through the ice crystal. Even though Sun Pillars have their differences from Sundogs and Halos, all types of optical phenomenon can be spectacular to observe.

Sun Pillar with kite in background.
Sun Pillars need high level clouds to produce the beam of vertical light.
Sun Pillar over water.
Light is reflected to produce the pillar effect.
Sun Pillar shown in a beautiful sunset.
Sun Pillar shown in a beautiful sunset.