Musement takes a look at eight rare and fascinating weather phenomena around the world and where to see them.
An aurora borealis is on the list of many travelers. However, nature doesn’t always have this show to offer. Many of these amazing types of natural events that occur all over our planet aren’t that easy to observe. Let’s look more closely at eight of them.
1. The Northern Lights, Nordic Countries
The aurorae borealis (plural) are undoubtedly the most popular weather phenomenon in the world. It’s often said the most surprising and fascinating part of this natural spectacle is the unexpected and harmonious silence of the lights waltzing across the sky. If you go far enough north, you’ll have the chance to see one of these beautiful shows. Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Reykjavik, are safe bets to admire this phenomenon, but it can also be seen in parts of Canada and Alaska.
2. Moonbows, Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe
Moonbows are a particularly rare meteorological phenomenon that happens during a full moon or when it is particularly bright. Just like with a traditional rainbow, the atmosphere should be sufficiently humid. Victoria Falls, located between Zambia and Zimbabwe, offers perhaps the best opportunity to admire this exceptional show. Svalbard, Norway or Iceland Reykjavik are safe bets to admire this phenomenon as well.
3. White Rainbows, Scotland
Also called “fogbows,” white rainbows are just as rare as moonbows. When a normal rainbow forms in the sky, water droplets act like a prism as sunlight passes through them. In the case of white rainbows, the mist droplets are so fine that they remain partially suspended in the atmosphere, not allowing the different colors that make up the sun’s light spectrum to pass through. Instead of different colors, we see a white and fuzzy luminous halo. In 2016, photographer Melvin Nicholson immortalized this phenomenon in Scotland.
4. Catatumbo Lightning, Venezuela
In Venezuela, high above Lake Maracaibo, the most active storm in the world blusters for close to six months. This semi-permanent storm is one of the world’s most persistent and majestic weather phenomena. Lightning strikes with colossal strength–more than 28 lightning strikes per minute– illuminating the evenings in the Ciénagas del Catatumbo National Park.
5. Lenticular Clouds, Mount Fuji
A lenticular cloud is stationary, incredibly compact and disc shaped, which is why scientists say that many “UFOs” were indeed just lenticular clouds. These clouds are generally present in proximity to mountains and can even hover above them, forming a small cap over the peaks. At times, several of these overlapping clouds adorn Mount Fuji.
6. Mammatus Clouds, Nebraska
Now there’s a funny name for a funny phenomenon. The term comes from “mammatus” in Latin, meaning “breasts,” and you can quickly understand why when you see them, in the sky. They could be described as a series of small round pockets hanging from a cloud. Typically, such a phenomenon occurs when a cloud hovers over a very dry layer of air, which is often the case in the Central or Eastern United States, as in Nebraska, or in Sydney, Australia, where summers can be hot and especially dry.
7. The Snow Penitentes of Chili
Penitentes are ice formations that appear by sublimation of snow at altitudes of more than 13,000 feet. All standing side by side tilted towards the sun, these structures resemble conical blades. These “fields” of ice cones are reminiscent of the processions of the penitents during Spain’s Holy Week, hence their evocative name. The most obvious formations are in the Andes Mountains.
8. Volcanic storms, Iceland
Frequent flyers will recall that in 2010, global air traffic was disrupted because the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjöll was acting up. In addition to its traditional eruptions, Eyjafjöll also causes volcanic storms, an impressive weather phenomenon, and magnificent sight. These storms occur due to the presence of an ash plume loaded with electromagnetic fields ejected by the volcano, which generates lightning.