This morning I witnessed four sundogs in the sky while enroute to work. Definitely a sign of the weather changing again. Our mock spring is just that. The weather reports this past two days have indicated a winter storm due into St. Louis, Missouri and area on Thursday. Do you know what a sundog is? Well, my father always called this patch of a rainbow seen in the sky usually around sunrise or sunset a “sundog”. He would say, “a storm is coming in” or “bad weather is around the corner”. I assumed it was a Native American phrase, as my father was very much interested in American history and our natives. But according to Wikipedia’s definition the name “sundog” is an Old World phrase. The scientific name is called “parhelia” which in Greek means “beside the sun”. Check out this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundog for a more scientific explanation on the “sundog”. There is an art masterpiece “Vadersolstavlan”, which is Swedish for “The Sundog Painting” or “The Weather Sun Painting”. It was painted in the 1500’s depicting Stockholm, Sweden with this weather phenomenon as the focal point. I have included a copy of this painting on my blog. Aristotle called them “mock suns”. According to poet Aratus, the parhelia indicates rain, wind, or an approaching storm. “Parhelia” is included in his catalogue of Weather Signs. So in the days of old, the people simply watched the sky without doppler radar and other sophisticated instruments. St Louis weather folks are telling us sleet and snow during the day tomorrow, with up to a 1/2 inch of freezing rain overnight into Friday. Winter is not over in Missouri.
Growing up in Iowa, I remember seeing sundogs and my dad would say it was a sign of cold weather or a blizzard coming and, like you, I thought it was of Native American origin. Interesting to find out the real origin. Hope they’re wrong about the freezing rain for you, that’s nasty stuff.
I wonder what the Native Americans call them? Sleet started 3 or 4 hours later than originally predicted, but it is here and much more to come … hot tea and a warm blanket with a fire in the kitchen fireplace today.