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Diamond dust falls over Mid-Missouri

For many stepping outside Tuesday afternoon, not only were they met with bitterly cold temperatures, snow on the ground, but “flurries” slowing falling against sunny skies. When looked upon at the right angle, it looks as if glitter is floating through the sky.

It’s quite rare to see this phenomenon across Mid-Missouri, as it’s more commonly observed in polar regions like Antarctica and the Arctic where well below freezing temperatures in the atmosphere are constantly found. This phenomenon is known as “Diamond Dust” and is similar to snow flurries that can fall on cloudy days.

The formation of diamond dust requires very cold air in place, which has been the case here across Mid-Missouri. The dust is often observed under clear or mostly clear skies, which is exactly what we had in place across Mid-Missouri.

For diamond dust to form, the bitterly cold air in place across Mid-Missouri condenses the water vapor in the air into ice crystals. These crystals are very fine and few in number that they are very hard to see. This is where the sun plays a huge roll in being able to see the diamond dust. As the small ice crystals float to the surface, it can reflect the sunlight and create sparks of light, like a diamond reflecting a bright light.

Sundogs are also very common in bitter cold like we’ve seen here in Mid-Missouri. If you ever look at the sky during winter days, you may see what looks like three suns in the sky. What is actually happening is sunlight refracting through icy clouds. The ice crystals bend the sun’s rays and refract them, which is why you normally see two bright spots at least 22 degrees from the sun on both side typically are seen at sunrise or sunset.

Unfortunately, if you didn’t get a chance to catch the phenomenon, warmer temperatures filtering into Mid-Missouri will keep the water vapor from freezing. Following a bitter cold first half of January, the foreseeable future looks to bring a nice thaw to Mid-Missouri, with multiple days in the 40s through the next week.

Stay with ABC 17 News, as we continue to track the changing temperatures and some much needed rain in the forecast. You can also follow us on Twitter @ABC17Stormtrack.

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