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What is the meaning of a ring around the moon as storms threaten the US?

Mafalda Costa October 28, 2021
Lunar halo appears above Van
Photo by Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

On Wednesday, 27 October, Americans took notice of a mysterious ring surrounding the moon. According to folklore, “A ring around the sun or moon means rain or snow is coming soon.” What is the meaning of a ring around the moon, as storms threaten the US?

Meaning of a ring around the moon

On Thursday, 28 October, Americans took notice of a mysterious ring surrounding the moon.

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The ring, or a lunar halo, is caused by the refraction and reflection of light from ice crystals that are suspended in thin, wispy, cirrus or cirrostratus clouds that are at high altitudes.

As light passes through the ice crystals, it is bent at a 22-degree angle, creating a halo of 22 degrees in radius.

This ring can be very faint or very distinct based on the number of cirrus clouds and/or the amount of light passing through them.

According to The Farmers’ Almanac, the phenomenon of a lunar halo is similar to a rainbow produced by sunlight and rain falling between your eye and the sun.

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What does Folklore say about a lunar halo?

According to folklore, “A ring around the sun or moon means rain or snow is coming soon.”

This is often proved true, as cirrus and cirrostratus clouds generally precede rain and storm systems.

In other words, seeing those icy clouds refracting light around the moon means cirrus clouds are present, which might indicate a coming storm.

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Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

This might be true in the US, as wet and severe winter-like weather is forecast for much of the country.

According to NBC News forecasters, seven million people have been under flash flood alerts in California and Nevada, where as much as 10 inches of rain was possible.

As much as 3 feet of snow could fall. Waves as high as 30 feet were forecasted for parts of the Northern California coast.

Still, the impending storm could challenge federal forecasters’ warnings that a La Niña weather pattern for California will bring more bad news – a relatively warm, dry winter.

Stargazing takes to Twitter

After yesterday’s ring phenomenon, many have taken to Twitter with their theories on the meaning of a lunar halo.

Here’s what they’ve been saying:

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Mafalda Costa is a second year BA Journalism student originally from Portugal. Her main passions if life are music, arts and culture, while she's particularly knowledgable on cinema and anime.