Pi­lot’s glory

Truro Daily News - - Weather -

By now you know how much I love clouds. They are beau­ti­ful and can teach us a lot about what’s hap­pen­ing over­head. The same ap­plies if you’re above the cloud, look­ing down!

Have you ever been fly­ing over a cloud deck and no­ticed what looked like a ring around the shadow of your air­plane? It can be grey or, if you’re lucky, it can glow with the colours of the rain­bow.

This ring is called a “Pi­lot’s Glory” or “Glory of the Pi­lot” be­cause most times, pilots are the only ones who get to see it!

We more fre­quently see ha­los around the sun or moon. These are cre­ated when light passes through droplets. We now know that most of the light that forms a glory doesn’t pass through the droplets. The main cause of a “glory” is a process called tun­nel­ing where sun­light passes close enough to a droplet to cre­ate elec­tro­mag­netic waves within it. Those waves bounce around in­side the droplet and even­tu­ally get out, send­ing out light rays that make up most of the glory that we see.

Be­sides be­ing pretty to look at, Pi­lot’s Glory is a sci­ence les­son. The ring is telling you that the cloud is not only made up of ice crys­tals, but liq­uid mois­ture, too! Why is this im­por­tant? Well, if the tem­per­a­ture in the cloud is around the freez­ing mark and the plane de­scends through the cloud, ic­ing is likely to oc­cur. Pilots do their best to avoid these con­di­tions.

Many years ago, when I briefed pilots at the Mac­don­ald-cartier In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Ot­tawa, a pi­lot told me that if you see a Pi­lot’s Glory, it means you have a guardian an­gel fly­ing with you. Chief Me­te­o­rol­o­gist Cindy Day

Susie Rhyno-nick­er­son took this photo on a flight to Bri­tish Columbia. Some would say she had a guardian an­gel with her.

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