Solar pillar
 - Antarctic Weather Phenomena

Antarctic Mountains

The air in Antarctica is frequently very dry. The low temperatures mean that little or no water vapour is held in the air, instead it freezes and falls out, or builds up on surfaces as frost. Sometimes however depending on the particular atmospheric conditions, the frozen water vapour remains in the air as suspended ice crystals. In these conditions the crystals can reflect sunlight in a variety of ways forming atmospheric phenomena of different types.

One of these phenomena is the "Solar Pillar" seen above. The sun is reflected very strongly so that the reflection is almost as bright as the sun itself. Like a rainbow, this sight is dependent on where the light is coming from and where the observer is standing. The pillar appears to move when the observer moves, but always remains directly below the sun.


Back to thumbnails

Photo credit - Paul Ward /