Bicol residents fear appearance of solar halo

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LEGAZPI CITY: Bicol residents fear the appearance of a halo around the sun is a portent of bad things to come.

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The elderly point out that when this happened in 2006, the province was hit by strong typhoons. One of them, Editha Serrano, 70, is expecting the worse.

“This is a sign of another disaster in Bicol. We’ve seen this happen seven years ago when two strong typhoons, namely, Melinyo and Reming, hit us,” Serrano told The Manila Times.

However, scientists at the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical & Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said the rare solar halo circling the sun has a natural explanation: It is formed due to high clouds.

“When crystals found in a cirrostratus cloud are hit by the sun’s rays, this causes the refraction or bending of light and the formation of rainbow-like colors circling the sun,” said Ariel Zamudio, Pagasa weather specialist in Bicol, who said the phenomenon is called a solar halo. This is visible in certain parts of Bicol.

He added that the halo indicates bad weather in the coming days but not necessarily a typhoon.

Scientist James Renwick of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research – National Climate Centre in New Zealand said the clouds have to be high enough in the atmosphere, usually about eight kilometers, so that they contain ice crystals rather than water.

In high and thin cirrus clouds, the ice crystals are hexagonal and act like prisms. As sunlight passes through the crystals, the light is deflected at an angle of 22 degrees, Renwick said.

“Different colors are deflected in slightly different amounts, so the inner part of the ring looks reddish, while the outer part looks bluish. The bright ring we see from the ground is at an angle of 22 degrees from the Sun,” he explained.

But the elderly here think otherwise and would rather be prepared than sorry.

“We believe in the natural signs of time the way our ancestors taught us even without scientific explanations,” Serrano said.

Aside from the solar halo, cumulonimbus clouds also appeared around Legazpi City. The Albay Public Safety Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) warned that these clouds produce thunderstorms. They cause sudden heavy rainfall, strong winds, and lightning that produce up to 1 million volts of electricity.

Because of this, APSEMO chief Cedric Daep warned the public, specifically farmers, to avoid open places like rice fields, electrical posts, trees and puddles.

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