10 Incredible Natural Phenomena That Really Exist
1. Catatumbo Lightning: The Everlasting Storm (Venezuela)
The world’s largest single generator of tropospheric ozone is the Catatumbo lightning which is also known as the everlasting storm. This powerful atmospheric phenomenon is found in Venezuela and it occurs exclusively at the mouth of the Catatumbo River where it empties into Lake Maracaibo. This phenomenon takes place 140-160 nights a year where it originates from storm clouds at a height of more than 5km. The lightning flashes last for 10 hours a day with a frequency of 280 flashes per hour. These incredible lightning flashes can be seen from as far as 400 miles.
There were different speculations as to how the everlasting storm came to be. Melchor Centeno believes that the origin of the thunderstorms is the closed wind circulation in the region. Others like Andrew Zavrotsky concluded that the warm and cold air currents meet around the area causing the phenomenon. Some studies from the University of Andes also suggest that the lightning is caused by uranium that is believed to be present in the bedrock.
Between 1997 and 2000, after several studies, the first ever microphysics model of the Catatumbo lightning was produced by Nelson Falcon. He believed that the major cause of the phenomenon is the oil deposit in the region and the methane produced by the swamps.
2. River under the Black Sea
The undersea river of the Black Sea was first discovered by a team of scientists from the University of Leeds in August 1st of 2010. They discovered that the river is a channel of saline water flowing heavily along the seabed of the Black Sea and passing through the Bosphorus Strait. Such discovery confirmed the existence of these channels like the one that runs from the mouth of the Amazon River to the Atlantic Ocean. Although the Black Sea undersea river is smaller than the one in Amazon, it is the first of its kind in the world. Undersea rivers can only be explored through a specialized underwater vehicle because of its unpredictability and power.
Scientists discovered that the river is 60km (37 miles) long, .97km (.6miles) wide and 35 meters (115ft) deep. The speed to which it flows is 4 miles an hour and it carries 22,000 cubic meters of water per second which is 10 times more water than the Rhine. Scientists believe that it will rank as the 6th largest river in the world had it been a surface river.
The Black Sea undersea river also contains the usual features that surface rivers have. It has waterfalls, floodplains, riverbanks and rapids.
3. Brinicles: Fingers of Death
A brinicle which is also known as the icy finger of death or ice stalactite is also one of the rarest undersea phenomena. To create a brinicle the conditions must be perfect. The surrounding sea water must be less cold and the depth must be perfect. The brinicle resembles an ice pipe when it first starts to form. Inside the pipe is a supersaline and supercold water that comes from the sea ice above the surface which accumulates through brine channels.
When the flow of colder brine is sustained, the thin walls of the brinicle become thicker as the less cold surrounding water freezes. Once the ice thickens, the flow of brine becomes more stable and the brinicle may reach the sea floor. For this to be possible, the sea ice pack on the surface must be still, the supercold brine must flow steadily, the surrounding water must be less saline and the water should not be very deep. If the sea ice pack moves, the brinicle will break from the strain. If the brine does not flow steadily then the walls will not thicken and it will break easily. If the surrounding water is too saline, then it will be difficult to freeze it as the freezing point becomes too low. And if the water is very deep, the brinicle will collapse under its own weight even before it reaches the sea floor.
Once it reaches the sea floor, it will travel in a down-slope direction until the lowest possible point is reached where it will pool. The surrounding water will continue to freeze accumulating ice in the process and all creatures at the bottom like the sea urchins and starfish will freeze to death once caught in its path.
4. Blood Rain: Kerala, India
The blood rain in Kerala first occurred in 1896 and it happened several times since. In 2001 between July 25 and September 23, locals reported that red-coloured rain poured heavily and stained their clothes pink. Other colors were also reported like green, yellow and black. The most recent occurrence happened in June of 2012. There were also reports of blood rain in Sri Lanka from November 15, 2012 to December 27, 2012.
After the occurrence in 2001 several studies were conducted and scientists initially suggested that the coloured-rain in Kerala was caused by meteorburst. Others suggested that the red rain was due to the presence of desert dust which probably came from the Arabian Desert. This suggestion was later ruled out when they conducted thorough investigation and found that the rain did not carry any desert dust. The government later commissioned a study and found out that instead of desert dusts the rains have been coloured by airborne spores from the genus trentepohlia which is a type of green algae that proliferates in the area. The exact species were later named by an International team as Trentepohlia annulata.
5. Sailing Stones
Sailing stones are geologic phenomena that have always fascinated people from all walks of life until the revelation of their secret in 2014. The stones move from one direction to the next leaving long trails along the smooth valley floor without any animal or human intervention. Stones with smooth bottom wander from one direction to another while stones with rough bottom travel only in straight and striated path. Several observations also reveal that stones may start to travel next to each other for a time being until one abruptly changes direction to the right, left or even back to where it first came from. The lengths of the trails also differ. Stones with the same size and shape may travel at the same speed and length but one of them may stop abruptly or move ahead.
Several hypotheses were suggested as to why they move and how they do it. The sailing stones of the Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park in California were first studied in the 1900s because the trails are very notable. Scientists were not able to find the answers to the mysterious sailing stones for almost a century and in 2014, they finally solved the mystery by using a time lapse video footage. It revealed that the stones move within the flow of thin melting ice sheets at low wind speeds.
To make the stones move the following conditions should be perfect: thin layer of clay, non-flooded but saturated surface, strong sustained winds to keep the stones moving and very strong gusts as an initial force.
6. Frost flowers
Frost flowers form when the ground is no longer frozen but the surrounding air is still freezing cold. As water expands when frozen, the sap of the plants will also expand and along the process of expansion, there will be long thin cracks in the stem of the plant. During capillary action, the sap is drawn out of the cracks and it freezes as it contacts the cold air. As more water is drawn from the stem, the thin layers of ice will be pushed further forming a "petal" of very thin ice.
These frost flowers are usually found in shaded areas in the early morning and they melt quickly when touched by sunlight. They are also very delicate and can break easily when touched. Plants that usually form frost flowers are crownbeard, yellow ironweed and they were also observed to form in some fallen branches of conifers.
Auroras are a spectacular display of light found only in the high latitudes such as the arctic and the Antarctic regions. These are also popularly called as the polar lights. Auroras form when the solar wind disturbs the earth’s magnetosphere creating a trajectory of charged particles in the form of protons and electrons. As such, when they precipitate into the higher atmosphere known as the exosphere or thermosphere, the energy of these charged particles are lost. This ionization process gives way to the spectacular light show of varying complexity and colours.
The form and colour of auroras depend on the amount of acceleration that the precipitating particles have been imparted to. Proton auroras are often observed in lower latitudes and thus they give off the usual green color. There are two forms of auroras. One is the curtain arc form which is more vivid and brighter and one can read a newspaper under its light. The other form is the diffuse glow which is less visible to the naked eye. The diffuse form also comes in red, green, ultraviolet, infrared, pink, yellow blue and orange colors.
Aurora borealis (northern lights) and aurora australis (southern lights) change simultaneously. They both have the same features as well.
8. Lenticular Clouds
Some meteorologists believe that lenticular clouds may have been the explanation for some UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) sightings. These clouds are stationary, lens-shaped and are formed in the troposphere. They are usually aligned perpendicular to the direction of the wind.
How are lenticular clouds formed? When the flow of air along the surface of the earth is obstructed (can be mechanical obstruction like bridges and buildings or natural obstruction like the mountains, hills and valleys) eddies are formed. It varies depending on the wind speed and the size of the object. Series of Large-scale standing waves may form when the stable moist air flows over a mountain. This moist air may condense and form lenticular clouds when the temperature at the crest of the wave drops to a dew point. People may not know of its existence because lenticular clouds do not form in flat or low-lying terrain. This is the reason why these clouds are not so popular.
9. Hessdalen Light (Norway)
In the Hessdalen valley, Norway, numerous tourists flock together to witness the spectacular display of light that is of unknown origin. The light appears red, yellow or bright white floating or standing above the ground. There are times when tourists can see the light for more than an hour. Sometimes the light just swayed back and forth in zero speed, sometimes it moves at an incredible speed and there are times when it just floats still in midair.
The lights were reported to first appear in the 1940s. From December 1981 until the summer of 1984, high activity of the Hessdalen lights were reported to appear 15-20 times every week. Today though, the Hessdalen lights are not so frequent anymore. They can only be observed 10-20 times a year.
10. Morning Glory Clouds
The Morning Glory cloud is a rare meteorological phenomenon which consists of associated cloud and low-level solitary atmospheric wave. These are observed occasionally in different parts of the world and the primary characteristic of the amplitude-series of waves is that they form bands of roll clouds.
As rare as they are, there is only one place in the world where they can be predicted to occur on a regular basis and that place is in the southern part of the Gulf of Carpentaria in Northern Australia.
Morning Glory cloud or arcus cloud is a roll cloud that can be as high as 2 kilometers with a length of over 1000 kilometers. It travels at a rate of 10-20 meters per second and occurs at only 100-200 meters above the ground. Morning Glory clouds can be just one cloud or it can be 10 consecutive roll clouds. A thunderstorm or shower may form in its path and it quickly dissipates over land where the air is dry. At the front of the cloud, there is a vertical motion where air is transported upwards through the clouds creating the rolling appearance and the turbulent air in the middle and rear sinks.