NewsLocal News


What creates light pillars in Colorado?

Light pillars over Pikes Peak_Lars Leber
Posted at 11:14 AM, Apr 13, 2022

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Wintry weather provides plenty of spectacular sights around Colorado, including light pillars that look like something out of a science fiction movie.

Colorado Springs photographer Lars Leber captured a photo of the winter phenomenon in 2021 and recently shared it in Denver7's Discover Colorado | Through Your Photos group on Facebook.

You can see the full photo below.

Light pillars over Pikes Peak_Lars Leber

So, what exactly are these light pillars? And what conditions provide the best chance to see them?

Denver7 Meteorologist Mike Nelson explained how it works: When the air is very cold — below zero degrees — and calm, billions of small ice crystals sometimes float in the atmosphere. In the above photo, the light from the Colorado Springs area reflected on those crystals, which then acted like billions of mirrors and caused vertical light pillars to develop above surface lighting that reflects upward, such as streetlights.

The light pillars generally only occur in the winter when very cold air masses move into the state.

They're more common farther north, especially in Canada, but occasionally are spotted in Colorado.