We explain some of the Earth's most beautiful natural phenomena.
Being cramped up in your home for months in quarantine can make one wonder what else the Earth has to offer. During the world wide lockdown, we witnessed a change around the globe. Skies cleared up, birds were chirping their old tunes, and nature had time to heal.
It is no secret that the world is full of fascinating things that we can't always explain. There are many sublime places and natural sightings for us to behold – and to take care of. Take a look at some of nature's most dream-like creations that can finally be explained why they happen.
One of the most incredible sightings is seeing a moonbow. A moonbow occurs when light (from the moon, in this case) reflects and refracts off water droplets in the sky. However, they are much rarer than rainbows and only occur when the moon is very low, the sky is dark, and rain is falling opposite the moon.
Have you ever looked up at the sky and seen a beautiful rainbow ring around the sun? Well, these rings are similar to moonbows. Sun halos form much higher in the sky when light reflects through ice crystals, leading to a perfect circle. They appear as a large circle of white or coloured light around the sun.
Brinicles are underwater stalactites or, according to Alec Baldwin on Frozen Planet, "icy fingers of death". These hollow icicles form when cold saltwater freezes. Brinicles can reach and pool on the ocean floor in the right conditions. This eventually leads to freezing slow-moving bottom creatures, such as starfish.
We have all wished upon a shooting star. Well, that is not scientifically true. A shooting star is actually a meteor or other small rocks that have entered the Earth's atmosphere. The light we see is the particles heating up and burning due to the speed and heat. According to scientists, stargazers can expect to see a shooting star every ten to 15 minutes.
Sinkholes suddenly appear at the most random times and sometimes cause severe damage. They occur when water is made acidic by contact with plants or carbon dioxide in the air. This leads to soft rock such as limestone, gypsum or dolomite underground, forming a deep cavern. An example of how a natural phenomenon can be dangerous, we can look at the story of a Florida man who was swallowed by a sinkhole that appeared under his bedroom.
Have you seen the images of a gorgeous beach that glows at night? Various beaches around the world light up in the dark. Phytoplankton is the cause of this natural phenomenon. These micro-organisms can be found in the Maldives, Puerto Rico, the Everglades, and elsewhere. They give off light when agitated by the movement of waves and currents.
Waterspouts are common in tropical and subtropical climates. They are usually mistaken for tornados moving over the water, and some believe it's a tornado made of water. But a waterspout is actually a type of cloud. Waterspouts rotate columns of air over water and are much weaker than tornados. Numerous can occur at once, like in the image captured off the coast of Louisiana above.
Volcanic lightning appears during a volcano explosion. This lightning forms in the cylinder-shaped column of volcanic ash, called the volcanic plume after the volcano erupts. Once the particles in the plume compress underground, then eject above ground, the density immediately changes. Friction will then be found between particles, which charges them. This leads to the particles then separating as they rise, creating space for electricity or lightning to flow between them.
The Blood Falls
The Blood Falls, a blood-red waterfall pouring out of the Taylor Glacier in the McMurdo Dry Valleys In Antarctica, was first thought to be the doing of algae. However, research from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, found the red colour is due to oxidized iron in the brine saltwater.
Frozen methane bubbles
The frozen lake bubbles that can be seen, for example, on Alberta Canada's Lake Abraham, are beautifully frozen, trapped bubbles of methane. And, they are still leaving people breathless. These methane bubbles occur when bacteria feasts on leaves and animals in the water. The bacteria will eat the matter and poop out of the methane, which then turns into floating bubbles in frozen water.
Salt flats or pans
Salt flats occur after water has evaporated quickly, leaving behind minerals precipitated from the salt ions dissolved in the water. Salt flats can, however, differ in their water source, which could be a lake, groundwater, or one of many other water sources.
There are some well-known and beautiful salt flats in Bolivia, Utah and many other locations.
Rainbow eucalyptus trees
Another breathtaking sight is the Rainbow eucalyptus trees seen in the Philippines and Indonesia. No, it is not painted! The colourful tree stripes are actually strips of old and new bark. After the thin bark layers peel away, they reveal younger ones with brighter colours. The youngest bark is green, following purple, red, and brown as the tree ages and loses chlorophyll.
After a while, the bark does, however, become totally brown again before repeating the shedding cycle.
Clouds that form light waves of various colours are called Nacreous clouds. Because they are only visible within two hours after sunset or before dawn, they are considered very rare. These clouds are, however, more common during the winter in places where there are high altitudes. Think Antarctica, Scandinavia, Iceland, and Canada.
Permafrost explosions are a natural phenomenon that occurs due to the frozen, trapped methane in icy water exploding. Heating these larger-scale bubbles results in huge bursts. The warming temperatures in Arctic zones thaw the ice, releasing gas and explosions. They often leave massive craters behind.