Wednesday, July 29, 2015

10 Ridiculously Cool Natural Phenomena

1. Snow roller

 A snow roller is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which large rolls of snow are formed naturally. The snow is blown by the wind collecting material along the way, almost the same way in which large snowballs are formed. Unlike snowballs made by people, snow donuts typically have a cylindrical shape, and are often hollow on the inside. This is because inside layers are the first to form, therefore they are weak and thin compared to the outer layers. This results that can be easily hollowed by the wind.

2. Mammatus cloud
 Mammatus clouds are pouch-like protrusions hanging from the undersides of clouds, usually thunderstorm anvil clouds but other types of clouds as well. Composed primarily of ice, these cloud pouches can extend hundreds of miles in any direction, remaining visible in your sky for perhaps 10 or 15 minutes at a time. They are most often associated with the anvil cloud and also severe thunderstorms.

3. Frost flower
 To put it simply, frost flowers are flowers made of frost. More accurately, frost flowers are nothing like that, so let’s put it technically instead: they’re buildups of ice particles around the base of certain plants and types of wood. When the temperature outside the plant is below freezing and the temperature within them is not, then water is pulled to the surface in a process similar to transpiration. This leads to a fragile chain of ice being pushed outward, which ends up forming sprawling, delicate formations.

4. Brinicles
 When the surface of the sea freezes—such as around the north and south poles—it does so in a way that forces pockets of especially cold and salty seawater to gather on the underside of the ice. This mixture of brine is denser than the seawater below it, and as a result it tends to slowly sink to the bottom. Now, because it’s so cold, the fresher water below the brine actually freezes around it as it falls, which results in a giant icicle under the surface.

5. Fallstreak hole
 A Fallstreak hole is a large circular or elliptical gap that can appear in cirrocumulus or altocumulus clouds. Such holes are formed when the water temperature in the clouds is below freezing but the water has not frozen yet due to the lack of ice nucleation. When ice crystals do form it will set off a domino effect, causing the water droplets around the crystals to evaporate: this leaves a large, often circular, hole in the cloud.

6. Columnar Basalt
 The unique formations are a result of lava flows cracking as they cool, in a perpendicular direction to the original flow.

7. Penitentes
 These intimidating snow structures are formed in high-altitude areas with low humidity, such as the glaciers of the Andes mountains. If the conditions are right, the sun’s rays are so hot that they can actually sublimate fields of snow—meaning that the frozen water vaporizes without ever becoming a liquid. This leads to slight pockets in the ice, which—thanks to their shape—actually end up attracting even more heat. The sharp spikes, then, are just the lucky parts of the snowfield that the sun didn’t target for complete and utter annihilation.

8. Sailing stones
 These rocks move when large ice sheets a few millimeters thick floating in an ephemeral winter pond start to break up during sunny days. These thin floating ice panels, frozen during cold winter nights, are driven by light winds and shove rocks at up to five meters per minute.

9. Volcanic Lightning
 Aa lightning storm that takes place in the middle of a volcanic eruption. Scientists aren’t 100% sure why this happens, but the primary theory goes that when a volcano erupts, it projects positively-charged debris into the atmosphere. These charges then react with negative charges already present, which results in 1) a bolt of lightning, and 2) a really cool picture.

10. Light pillar
A light pillar is an atmospheric optical phenomenon in the form of a vertical column of light which appears to extend above and/or below a light source. The effect, sometimes also called the crystal beam phenomenon, is created by the reflection of light from numerous tiny ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere or clouds.

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