Chicago’s cool polar vortex


In case you wondered, these are neither photoshoppped nor enhanced pictures.  Earlier in the week we got to enjoy another solar halo here in Chicago, the third one I have come across this past month.  This is the result of sunlight refracted by ice crystals in the clouds in extreme cold weather. There were rainbows too, but I didn’t manage to take pictures of that.

The left picture was taken early in the morning while the right one was a sunset. I took these photographs from home and on different days in January. Both atmospheric phenomena delivered solar halos and two sundogs on each side. The sundogs are phantom suns which, technically speaking, do not qualify as mirages.  A mirage turns out to be a different optical phenomenon that does not yield sideway images, but vertical ones.  The sunrise on the left features a horizontal line known as parhelic circle, a beam of sunlight also refracted by hexagonal ice crystals.


The polar vortex is a large scale cyclone, and we got two of these descending from the artic a couple of weeks apart. The left picture is a snapshot of the kind of extreme temperatures experienced in the Chicago area. The picture on the right shows the wind chill effect (what you actually feel) and –45° F converts into –42° C.  Chicago is now known as Chiberia: on January 6 we recorded colder temperatures than those registered in Novosibirsk in Siberia and at the South Pole’s Amundsen-Scott Station in Antarctica.


“Al mal tiempo buena cara” is a Spanish proverb which translates into weathering the storm with a brave face, the Spanish equivalent to “keep calm and carry on.”  So, we draw a smiley face on our backyard table : )


As I type this last sentence it’s now time to go back there and shovel some more snow. So, greetings from Chiberia.

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