Atmospheric lights question

I work near Denver, Co. I was out back having a smoke around 2:30am. When I looked around, every light in the area looked like a search light pointing straight up.

It was about 3 degrees F outside at the time. It had been snowing all day. At the time there was a very, very fine snow still coming down even thought there were no clouds overhead.

I’ve lived my whole live (35yrs) in places where it gets cold/snows in the winter and I’ve NEVER seen anything like that. It looked so cool I dragged the guy I work with outside to check it out. He’d never seen anything like it either.

So, my question is: what caused this? If it was just the fine snowfall, how come I’ve never seen it before?

I’ve seen the same thing several times this year. I live in western Wisconsin, and when I saw it on my way to work it really freaked me out. I thought at first that I WAS seeing spotlights. I hope someone answers this question you’ve brought up.

I’ve seen that happen a couple times, once just a few weeks ago. But I don’t have the answer. I’ve started carrying a camera with me at all times, hoping to get a picture of the effect.

You’re seeing what is always there (poorly aimed/unshielded light that goes into the sky instead of where it belongs on the ground) except that there was something in the air that reflected/scattered the light & made it more visible to you. Kind of like on a foggy day. If it was “search light” like, then I’d say there was more reflecting going on than scattering.