Mother Nature never runs out of tricks. Just when you think you've seen every one of her weird little outbursts you possibly can, along comes some unbelievable new phenomena that makes you go "Now I've seen it all!" ... until you haven't again. For example ...
On their own, snow and lightning are relatively common occurrences. But put them together, and it looks like you're in a freaking Roland Emmerich movie.
If you can't turn up the volume, imagine the most excited any person has ever been for anything, except louder.
There are some very specific conditions required for this unbelievable scene. You need precisely the right combination of high temperatures down low and low temperatures up high, and then boom. Literally ... with snow on top.
When thousands of starlings take to the sky at the same time, that's known as a "murmuration." It's the perfect name, because these real-life birdnadoes could very well cause your heart to skip a few beats.
The weirdness doesn't stop there. These little feathered shapeshifters evidently hit their creative peak when they're targeted by birds of prey, in which case they've been known to morph into something surprisingly logical ... if a bit creepy.
Clouds can take on many forms, yet for some reason all we ever see is Gary Busey's smiling face. Perhaps that's more of a personal problem. But when you combine hilltops that are cone-shaped and symmetrical with an isolated mountain under the right circumstances, you end up with a scene straight out of Independence Day:
That's Cape Town in South Africa a few years back. The mountain effectively forced air to flow upward while it was simultaneously being pushed down by gravity, and then the temperature in the peak of the usually invisible atmospheric wave this causes dropped to the dew point, allowing for clouds straight out of a Richard Dreyfuss movie. The more boring name for them is "lenticular clouds," though scientists agree that "UFO clouds" is a lot more fun.
Every once in a while, a lightning bolt decides to break out of its rut by striking upward for a change.
This is actually the fault of skyscrapers. When a normal strike occurs in the vicinity of a tall building, it can sometimes initiate a positive upward leader, sending a bolt right back where it was supposed to come from.
"No YOU listen, Zeus!"
Wanna see the visual embodiment of a classic rock song? No? No one wants that, because it would probably be visibly greasy? Well, here's some smoke on the water anyway. Look, it's even this nice violet color. A purple haze, if you will ...
This is called "sea smoke," even though it's more accurately a sort of steam fog -- but that doesn't make for a very good band name, now does it?
Sea smoke isn't too uncommon. You get it when cold enough air starts moving over warm enough water. But it's thankfully rare for the resulting fog to form up into a huge, ghostly wall like it did over Lake Superior a couple years back. Harmless as it may be, we've seen enough horror movies to know that no one's driving over that bridge.
A cloud tsunami sounds like something a Care Bear would surf, but it's a real phenomena:
That's what residents of Panama City Beach, Florida saw in 2012, at the exact moment the offshore humidity was high enough to cause the low-forming clouds to look like giant heavenly harbingers. Once friction slows the air down, it creates the illusion of clouds splashing over the city skyline, minus the casualties that come with regular old tsunamis. While scary-looking, they're just about the best kind of tsunami you could hope for, if you're in the habit of hoping for tsunamis.
If that's close to what you'd imagine an F6 tornado would look like, you're not all that far off the mark. What some call "rain bombs" have been described as "tornadoes in reverse." They don't only have a problematic appearance; they can really ruin your outdoor plans if you're not accustomed to air and water blasting out of the sky at you at speeds of over 115 miles per hour.
These come about when a dry patch of air gets in the way of a thunderstorm and sucks away some of the storm's moisture, which is a great way to piss off a storm. Below the storm cloud, the air begins to cool, eventually becoming denser than the surrounding air. The cool air drops into warmer air, starts to accelerate, and next thing you know, you're in the middle of Neptune's temper tantrum.
They're also pretty hard to predict, so the next time you think a picnic sounds like a good idea, maybe just stay the hell inside. Forever.
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That sea smoke looks a lot like ... Purple Rain, doesn't it?/b>
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