light pillars ontario

Rare winter phenomenon appears above Ontario skies during extreme cold

Extreme cold whipped Ontario and much of the northeast on Friday and Saturday, but a lucky few of those willing to brave temperatures colder than -30 C over the weekend were treated to some views of a spectacular seasonal phenomenon known as light pillars.

During extreme cold snaps, this atmospheric optical phenomenon forms vertical beams of light that travel up from their sources and reflect through ice crystals suspended in the ultra-cold air.

On cold and calm nights, these tiny floating ice crystals act as miniature hexagonal-shaped mirrors concentrated in the millions, which reflect light upwards to form searchlight-like beams that project high into the sky.

Light pillars were spotted around Ontario over the weekend, including several reports out of Ingersoll, where temperatures plummeted to the minus double digits.

Multiple views out of Ingersoll confirm that this phenomenon was widespread in the town of roughly 13,000.

A video of the light pillars rising against a residential neighbourhood with falling snow has an almost apocalyptic vibe to it.

Similar conditions allowed light pillars to form about 130 kilometres away, in Shelburne, where temperatures dipped to -25 C over the weekend.

Light pillars were spotted elsewhere in southwestern Ontario amid polar temperatures.

This is not the first time in recent years that the phenomenon has appeared over southern Ontario skies. One year earlier, light pillars were spotted in the Greater Toronto Area during an extreme cold snap.

Lead photo by

Scott Rogers


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