In ancient times, people created stories, or myths, to explain things about nature that they couldn’t understand. Ancient Egyptians would make sacrifices to the gods so they wouldn’t be “punished” by drought, plague or floods. Ancient Greeks used myths about their gods to explain natural phenomena like stars, fire, lightning, and how the sun and Earth were created.
But, today, we use science to explain strange, natural phenomena. And, while we may pause to admire a sunset or rainbow, we tend to take for granted how amazing our world really is. Below are 7 strange and beautiful natural occurrences that you’re sure to find fascinating!
During a volcanic eruption, positively charged particles are thrown into the air. The positive charges come into contact with negative charges that are already in the air, causing a lightning bolt that is both beautiful, as well as, a little frightening.
California’s Death Valley has quite a few myths and legends that surround it. But, to me, none is quite so interesting as the Sailing Stones. Stones weighing as much as 700 pounds appear to move on their own across the flat, dry lake bed known as Racetrack Playa. You can actually see the trails these stones leave as they travel along the ground! Scientists have studied and theorized how the stones moved since the 1940’s. Now, geologists Jim and Richard Norris finally have the answer!
The geologists attached GPS trackers to some of the stones, then set up a station to keep an eye on any movement. After two years, their patience paid off – the stones began to move! The day before the phenomenon occurred, it had rained. When temperatures fell at night, ice formed along the ground. When the ice began to break up into sheets as the day heated up, the sheets of ice with the stones on them were pushed by the wind, leaving a trail in their wake. Amazing!
If forests are more your thing, check out these 12 mysterious forests.
Sun Dogs occur due to the light from the sun reflecting off of ice crystals in the air. They look like two, individual, bright spots on either side of the sun. When bright enough, they can give the appearance that the Earth suddenly has 3 suns! Look for them at sunrise and sunset as the sun has to be low in the sky for Sun Dogs to happen.
This phenomenon is not at all rare, so the chances of you seeing it are very good. Just don’t look at the sun for a very long time as it can cause permanent damage to your eyes!
Like Sailing Stones, Snow Rollers don’t happen often. There has to be a very specific series of weather events happen in order for them to form. First, there has to be two layers of snow: a bottom, icy layer with a newer, wetter layer on top. Then, the wind has to be strong enough to push the wetter layer of snow over the icy layer to form snowballs. There doesn’t need to be a slope in the land for this to happen, but they do occur more often in sloped areas.
Think about a person rolling balls of snow to make a snowman, only in this instance, Mother Nature’s hands are rolling the snow into cylindrical balls. They vary in size from a small snowball to the size of a car! Since the weather events have to line up exactly in the perfect order for this to happen, Snow Rollers are incredibly rare.
Basalt is rock that is formed from a lava flow so it can be found all over the world. But, Columnar Basalt can only be found where lava has flowed into a body of water. They can be found in Washington state, Wyoming, the Canary Islands and Northern Ireland, to name a few. They were even discovered on Mars!
They’re formed in times of drought. As the water evaporates and the ground contracts. This forms perpendicular cracks in the hardened lava, which creates the columns. The columns are usually hexagonal in shape but can also have twelve or more sides. The columns can be 50 feet tall, depending on how thick the lava flow was!
Water spouts are tornadoes that form over water. They’re formed when a mass of warm, moist air collides with a mass of cool, dry air, causing instability in the atmosphere. When wind shear occurs from a thunderstorm, it rolls the air into a horizontal vortex. Warm ground air rises up to the vortex and lifts the vortex into a vertical position. Strong winds rotate the vortex and boom! Tornado! When this happens over water, boom! Water spout!
The winds from a water spout can reach 190 miles per hour! Since they occur over water, there is usually no danger associated with them…unless you’re on a boat and get caught in one. Scientists theorize that some of the ship wrecks in the Bermuda Triangle were caused by water spouts.
And as long as you can avoid waterspouts along the way, check out these 10 amazing islands.
Light pillars are usually seen in arctic areas where the air is extremely cold. It appears as though columns of light rise above or below a source of light. The light can come from a natural source or a man-made one. If made by the moon, they’re called Lunar Pillars; if made by the sun, Sun Pillars. If formed by the moon or sun, they have to be close to the horizon in order for them to create a light pillar.
Light pillars are caused by light reflecting from ice particles suspended in the clouds or air. They take on the appearance of a pillar because are made up mostly of flat plates; so, as they fall through the air, they fall in more of a horizontal direction. These icy plates act as mirrors, reflecting the light up or down. The wind causes the crystals to shift from a horizontal position into a more columnar form, creating this beautiful sight!