Strange natural phenomena that only happen once on earth
Events that seem like out of this world…so rare and so beautiful that you won’t believe they truly exist. Two words – MINDBLOWINGLY AWESOMATIC!
1. Aurora borealis (Northern Lights)Location: Above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres of the Earth. (Polar regions)
The bright dancing lights of the aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. These collisions vary in color due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. The most common auroral color, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora. Scientists have learned that in most instances northern and southern auroras are mirror-like images that occur at the same time, with similar shapes and colors. Because the phenomena occurs near the magnetic poles, northern lights have been seen as far south as New Orleans in the western hemisphere, while similar locations in the east never experience the mysterious lights. However the best places to watch the lights (in North America) are in the northwestern parts of Canada, particularly the Yukon, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Alaska. Auroral displays can also be seen over the southern tip of Greenland and Iceland, the northern coast of Norway and over the coastal waters north of Siberia. Southern auroras are not often seen as they are concentrated in a ring around Antarctica and the southern Indian Ocean.
2. Lenticular CloudsLocation: Can be found anywhere on Earth, provided the conditions are right for its formation
Lenticular clouds, technically known as altocumulus standing lenticularis, are stationary lens-shaped clouds that form at high altitudes, normally aligned at right-angles to the wind direction. Where stable moist air flows over a mountain or a range of mountains, a series of large-scale standing waves may form on the downwind side. Under certain conditions, long strings of lenticular clouds can form, creating a formation known as a wave cloud. Lenticular clouds have been mistaken for UFOs (or “visual cover” for UFOs) because these clouds have a characteristic lens appearance and smooth saucer-like shape.
3. BioluminescenceLocation: Australia – Gippsland Lakes; USA – Manasquan Beach (NJ), Mission Bay, Torrey Pines Beach (San Diego, CA), Cortez (FL); Caribbean – Luminous Lagoon (Jamaica), Mosquito Bay (Puerto Rico), Asia – Halong Bay (Vietnam), Bali (Indonesia), Ton Sai, (Krabi, Thailand), Toyama Bay (Japan); Europe – (Zeebrugge, Belgium), Norfolk (UK), Indian Ocean – Reethi Beach (Maldives)
Bioluminescence can be created in a rare number of environments. It is a glow produced by algal blooms. The blooms carry and support millions of the bioluminescent dinoflagellates. Bioluminescence is used by dinoflagellates as a defense mechanism to escape predators. Bioluminescence can really only be seen in the darkness, so you have to be in a light free zone to witness it. The plankton light up whenever they are disturbed, though only for a moment. The greater the disturbance, the brighter the glow — boats typically create the most intense effects. Numerous species of phytoplankton and certain jelly fishes are known to bioluminesce, and the glow can be seen in oceans worldwide at all times of year. Even though dinoflagellates are single-celled organisms, some of them are large enough to be seen with the naked eye. They wash up on shores and it looks like glitter. Walk in them and your footsteps will glow.
4. Frost FlowersLocation: Anywhere on a cold morning provided the conditions are right.
As beautiful as it is rare, a frost flower is created on autumn or early winter mornings when ice in extremely thin layers is pushed out from the stems of plants or occasionally wood. This extrusion creates wonderful patterns which curl and fold into gorgeous frozen petioles giving this phenomenon both its name and its appearance. As the temperature gets to freezing or below the sap in the stem of the plants will expand. As it does so the outer layer of the stem comes under increasing pressure and microscopically thin cracks, known as linear fissures, begin to form. These will finally give way under the pressure of the sap and split open. Water is continuously being drawn up the plant’s stem while the ground remains unfrozen. It travels up the plants external stem and reaches the split or splits. As it does so, it oozes slowly out and it freezes. Yet more water is coming behind it. This new water reaches the cracks and it too freezes, pushing the previous slither of ice away from the stem. In this manner the amazing ‘petals’ that you see in these pictures are formed.
5. SupercellLocation: Supercells can occur anywhere in the world under the right pre-existing weather conditions, but they are most common in the Great Plains of the United States in an area known as Tornado Alley and in the Tornado Corridor of Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil.
The most threatening and deadliest of all thunderstorms, a supercell is characterized by the presence of a mesocyclone: a deep, persistently rotating updraft. For this reason, these storms are sometimes referred to as rotating thunderstorms. Supercells are often isolated from other thunderstorms, and can dominate the local weather up to 32 kilometres (20 mi) away. Supercells can be any size – large or small, low or high topped. They usually produce copious amounts of hail, torrential rainfall, strong winds, and substantial downbursts. Supercells are one of the few types of clouds that typically spawn tornadoes within the mesocyclone, although only 30% or fewer do so.
6. Volcanic LightningLocation: Volcanic Eruptions
A dirty thunderstorm (also, Volcanic lightning) is a weather phenomenon that is related to the production of lightning in a volcanic plume. A famous image of the phenomenon was photographed by Carlos Gutierrez and occurred in Chile above the Chaiten Volcano. Other instances have been reported above Alaska’s Mount Augustine volcano,and Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano.Volcanic lightning, the researchers hypothesize, is the result of charge-separation. As positively charged ejecta makes its way skyward, regions of opposite but separated electrical charges take shape. A lightning bolt is nature’s way of balancing the charge distribution. The same thing is thought to happen in regular-old thunderstorms. Smaller eruptions tend to be accompanied by more diminutive storms, which can be difficult to spot through thick clouds of ash. What’s more, lightning activity is highest during the beginning stages of an eruption, making it all the more challenging to capture on film.
7. Finnish Lapland StructuresLocation: Finland
Rising eerily from the frozen landscape, these strange shapes look like something from a science-fiction film. But they are here on Earth, frost-covered trees located close to the Arctic Circle, where temperatures can drop as low as -40C. In the dramatic sub-zero conditions, the snow and frost become so thick that everything is covered in a thick blanket. The picture was taken in winter in Finnish Lapland where weather can include sub-freezing temperatures and driving snow.
8. Fire RainbowsLocation: Fire rainbows can only be seen on locations north of 55°N or south of 55°S.
Fire Rainbows are neither fire, nor rainbows, but are so called because of their brilliant pastel colors and flame like appearance. Technically they are known as circumhorizontal arc – an ice halo formed by hexagonal, plate-shaped ice crystals in high level cirrus clouds. The halo is so large that the arc appears parallel to the horizon, hence the name. Brightly colored circumhorizontal arc occur mostly during the summer and between particular latitudes. When the sun is very high in the sky, sunlight entering flat, hexagon shaped ice crystals gets split into individual colors just like in a prism. The conditions required to form a “fire rainbow” is very precise – the sun has to be at an elevation of 58° or greater, there must be high altitude cirrus clouds with plate-shaped ice crystals, and sunlight has to enter the ice crystals at a specific angle. This is why circumhorizontal arc is such a rare phenomenon.
Mammatus is a meteorological term applied to a cellular pattern of pouches hanging underneath the base of a cloud. They are pouch-like cloud structures and a rare example of clouds in sinking air. As updrafts carry precipitation enriched air to the cloud top, upward momentum is lost and the air begins to spread out horizontally, becoming a part of the anvil cloud. Because of its high concentration of precipitation particles (ice crystals and water droplets), the saturated air is heavier than the surrounding air and sinks back towards the earth.The temperature of the subsiding air increases as it descends. However, since heat energy is required to melt and evaporate the precipitation particles contained within the sinking air, the warming produced by the sinking motion is quickly used up in the evaporation of precipitation particles. If more energy is required for evaporation than is generated by the subsidence, the sinking air will be cooler than its surroundings and will continue to sink downward. The subsiding air eventually appears below the cloud base as rounded pouch-like structures called mammatus clouds.