Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Weird Weather and Nature In Action

These are some of my favorite examples of bizarre natural phenomena, including videos to illustrate them. A lot of these videos are brief and to the point while some are longer documentary-style formats, but they all contain valuable footage and information. These videos are all public and available on Youtube; several more strange weather videos exist for those who want to dig a little deeper and learn more.

We'll start off with an interesting but uncommon phenomenon known as a snow devil, which is a miniature tornado made out of snow. Snow devils generally don't last longer than a couple minutes and pose no threat, although there have been odd reports in the past of these vortices gaining enough strength to do serious damage. Stronger ones are more common in Arctic regions.
Here's some good footage of one in action:

Fire whirls are on the other end of the spectrum from snow devils. These extremely dangerous twisting columns of smoke and fire are a common occurance of forest fires. They have been known to reach 200 feet and have killed many people. These are one of the most feared threats firefighters must deal with when combating wildfires.

Regular tornadoes are one of the most common and deadliest natural disasters in the world. Although certain states are more at risk, rogue tornadoes have formed in almost every area of the U.S. at some point in time. Tornadoes take form out of cumulonimbus clouds and violent thunderstorms known as supercells.
Here, meteorologists display an Oklahoma tornado as it takes shape:

Ball lightning is one of the most mysterious and controversial of all weather phenomena, with people continuing to debate whether it actually exists. It supposedly has the ability to travel through solid walls, including the walls of airplanes, where many people have reported sightings. Better footage of ball lightning is becoming available, along with reports that scientists have managed to reproduce it in laboratory settings.
This is a longer video containing many possible incidences of rare ball lightning:

Dust storms and sand storms are common in dry climates from the Middle East to the American Southwest, and affect rural and urban areas alike. They occur when intense wind reacts with dry, loose particles and carries them in extreme gusts. These storms have the power to lift particles 20,000 feet in the air and move entire sand dunes.
Extreme dust storm in Arizona:

Death Valley is a huge dry lake bed and national park that covers parts of California and Nevada. It features extreme temperatures, the lowest elevation in the US, and strange moving rocks. Until recently, nobody had actually witnessed the rocks moving, but relied on the trails they made on the surface. Scientists were at a loss for theories. Finally, it seems we have an explanation...
First footage of Death Valley's moving rocks in action:

Sometimes when conditions are just right, the tiny ice crystals that make up clouds refract light and make it appear as if there are several suns. These are referred to as sundogs, which are often linked by strings of light known as haloes. The phenomenon is most common in polar regions, but possible anywhere under the right circumstances. It has been mentioned extensively in historical accounts.
A great example of what appears to be 5 suns:

No natural phenomenon has inspired as much wonder throughout history as Auroras, commonly called Northern Lights. These streaks of colored lights are visible in both the extreme Northern and Southern poles of the world and result from charged particles colliding near Earth's magnetic field. Auroras increase during extreme geomagnetic storms and have been reportedly been seen in more temperate areas of the world.
Footage of the Northern Lights in action over Norway:

One of the most fascinating atmospheric phenomena is one that was just recently discovered. In fact, researchers are still not completely aware of the forces behind what are referred to as Blue Jets and Red Sprites. These flashes of light occur in the upper atmosphere and last for mere milliseconds, usually occuring during thunderstorms. The first photographic evidence was accidentally, but fortunately, documented in 1989.
High altitude "Red Sprite" and "Blue Jet" phenomenon:

The weather mystery surrounding accounts of rain consisting of live animals has tormented mankind as long as written documents exist. It continues to fascinate, as there continue to be incidents of fish, frogs, and other creatures falling from the sky, yet no photographic or film evidence. Most people point to waterspouts as the likely cause. This short documentary explores what might be the most bizarre weather of all time:

I hope you enjoyed these videos enough to learn more about the phenomena shown in them. The natural world is often stranger than anything you could imagine and well worth investigating.