Lenticular cloud formation over Harold's Cross, Dublin

5 Amazing and Rare Natural Phenomena

Some natural events are so rare, so strange, but amazingly beautiful at the same time. They even seem like out of our world, and sometimes it’s hard to believe they truly exist. Here are a few of them, five stunning and rare natural phenomena.

1. Giant Snowballs

Giant Snowballs, Siberia (October 2016)
Giant Snowballs, Siberia (October 2016)

In the end of October 2016, thousands of giant snowballs has covered an 18-kilometer (11-mile) Siberian beach near the village of Nyda. Their size varies from the size of a tennis ball to 1 meter (3 feet).

The press secretary of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, Sergei Lisenkov explained to the Russian TV: “As a rule, first there is a primary natural phenomenon – sludge ice, slob ice. Then comes a combination of the effects of the wind, the lay of the coastline, and the temperature and wind conditions. It can be such an original combination that it results in the formation of balls like these.” Source

First, small pieces of ice started forming, then they rolled by wind and water, collected more icy snow, and the final result was giant snowballs.

Previously, a similar phenomenon was witnessed in the Gulf of Finland in December 2014, and on Lake Michigan, United States in December 2015.

2. Lenticular Clouds

Lenticular cloud formation over Harold's Cross, Dublin
A lenticular cloud formation over Harold’s Cross, Dublin, Ireland (June 30, 2015). Photo: wikipedia

Lenticular Clouds are stationary lens-shaped clouds, technically known as Altocumulus lenticularis. They look so alien, they even have been offered as an explanation for some unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings.

Lenticular Clouds form at high altitudes: at the low altitudes, obstacles like hills, mountains, or even human-made objects i.e. tall buildings, bridges disrupt the flow of air into eddies. But, at high altitudes, 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. If the temperature at the crest of the wave drops to the dew point, moisture in the air may condense to form lenticular clouds.

Pilots of powered aircraft tend to avoid flying near lenticular clouds because of the turbulence of the rotor systems that accompany them, but glider pilots actively seek them out. The precise location of the rising air mass is fairly easy to predict from the orientation of the clouds. “Wave lift” of this kind is often very smooth and strong, and enables gliders to soar to remarkable altitudes and to great distances.

3. Sun dogs

Sun dogs (Fargo, North Dakota)
Very bright sun dogs in Fargo, North Dakota, United States. Also visible are parts of the 22° halo (the arcs passing through each sundog), a sun pillar (the vertical line) and the parhelic circle (the horizontal line). Photo: wikipedia

Sun dogs are also atmospheric phenomena. They can be seen anywhere in the world during any season, but the best time is when the Sun is close to the horizon: they appear as a pair of bright spots on either horizontal side on the Sun, often co-occurring with a luminous ring known as a 22° halo(1).

Sun dogs are created by light interacting with ice crystals in the atmosphere, and also known as mock suns or phantom suns, and the meteorological name is parhelia (singular parhelion).

4. Frost Flowers

There are two phenomena called frost flowers: 1- thin layers of ice are extruded from long-stemmed plants, and 2- ice crystals growing on young sea ice and thin lake ice in cold, calm conditions. Both types of forest flowers look amazingly beautiful.

Frost Flower
A frost flower in the Ozark Mountains, United States. The formation of frost flowers is dependent on a freezing weather condition occurring when the ground is not already frozen. The sap in the stem of the plants will expand (water expands when frozen), causing long, thin cracks to form along the length of the stem. Water is then drawn through these cracks via capillary action and freezes upon contact with the air. As more water is drawn through the cracks it pushes the thin ice layers further from the stem, causing a thin “petal” to form. The petals of frost flowers are very delicate and will break when touched. Photo: wikipedia
Frost flowers (sea ice) in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
Frost flowers (sea ice) in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada (November 204). They form on thin sea ice when the atmosphere is much colder than the underlying ice. Photo: Great Divide Nature Interpretation – Nature Notes

5. Volcanic Lightning

Volcanic eruptions are sometimes accompanied by flashes of lightning. This rare phenomenon also known as “dirty thunderstorm”.This lightning doesn’t descend from storm clouds in the sky. In a normal thunderstorm, the ice crystals collide and generate electric charges, which results in lightning. In an eruption, electrical charges are generated when rock fragments, ash, and ice particles in a volcanic plume collide and produce static charges.

Here is a video footage of Volcanic Lightning shows the highly active Sakurajima volcano on the Japanese island of Kyushu. The German videographer was able to capture the rare phenomenon of volcanic lightning, as well as an explosive shockwave which rippled through the sky. Sakurajima, translated as Cherry Island, has been erupting on a regular basis since 1955 and is a constant danger to the nearby city of Kagoshima, which has a population of over 600,000.

Videographer / Director: Marc Szeglat
Producer: Nick Johnson
Editor: Ian Phillips

Sakurajima is the only volcano that has frequent lightning in daily eruptions. But why that rare phenomenon happens so often there remains unclear.

Other instances have been reported above Alaska’s Mount Augustine volcano, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano, Mount Etna in Sicily, Ital. A very famous image of the phenomenon was photographed by Carlos Gutierrez and occurred in Chile above the Chaiten Volcano.

Volcanic Lightning, Sakurajima Volcano
Sakurajima, translated as Cherry Island, an active composite volcano (stratovolcano) on the Japanese island of Kyushu, has been erupting on a regular basis since 1955. It is the only volcano that has frequent lightning in daily eruptions.

Notes

  1. A 22° halo is an optical phenomenon that belongs to the family of ice crystal halos, in the form of a ring with a radius of approximately 22° around the Sun or Moon (in which case it is also called a moon ring or winter halo). It forms as the sun- or moonlight is refracted in millions of hexagonal ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. Read more about 22° halo on wikipedia

Sources

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