Hollywood can put together some pretty impressive special effects; cities blowing up, dogs playing sports, and Jessica Biel having boobs. But even their imaginative creations pale in comparison to some of the shit Mother Nature pulls out of her butt sometimes.
1. Volcanic Lightning
In certain circumstances during a volcanic eruption, the pyroclastic flow (the cloud of hot ash shown in the picture) generates static electricity, due to the dry conditions. As soon as the ash cloud touches a potential ground (often, as shown in the photo, a regular cloud) the pent-up static is violently released in incredible God’s-fury type storms like this one caused by the Chaiten Volcano in Peru back in 2008. But don’t worry about any personal danger from the lightning; if you are close enough to get struck by it, odds are pretty good that the pyroclastic flow that caused it has already smashed, cooked and corroded you.
2. St. Elmo’s Fire
Believe it or not, this was an actual thing before the awesome 80′s soundtrack and Rob Lowe. In an electrically charged environment, like an airplane cockpit, plasma discharges can fire off, almost always from a point, like a ship’s mast or a needle. It is not dangerous, but you can understand why it scared the hell out of people on ships back in the 1800s when lightning began arcing off the mainmast during a sea storm.
3. Sun Dogs
Amazingly, the atmosphere works a lot like a lens, bending light as it passes through miles and miles of air. Sometimes, there is a fine cloud of ice crystals called “diamond dust” that brings the light into a bit more focus, and those are called sun dogs. They only happen when it is cold enough for there to be ice in the air, but they are common enough to have confused the hell out of people throughout history.
4. Geomagnetic Storms
Have you seen Knowing? If not, SPOILERS! Otherwise, remember the end when the sun belched out a world-ending blast of radiation? Well, geomagnetic storms are the real world version of that. They won’t kill you (unless you are in space, in which case you could receive a fatal dose of radiation), but they take the idea of auroras to a much higher level. There was a big one back in 1989 that killed power in Quebec and created auroras as far south as Texas.
If you have ever seen a layer of vegetable oil floating on top of water, then you should be at least familiar with the idea of halocline. It happens in water (often in caves) where salt water meets fresh water. The different densities of the water lead to a “boundary” between the two.
It winds up looking a lot like the water tentacle in The Abyss.
6. Crepuscular (“God”) Rays
Crepuscular reays are caused by particles or vapor in the air. Along with making the real world feel like you are in a movie, they are also frequently used in motivational posters, and damn near anything that refers to God. These were the holy grail of game graphics programmers for years (and became a reality with the introduction of DirectX 10 back in 2007).
7. Tower Karsts
Tower Karsts are giant mounds of limestone made by thousands of years of erosion by rain. They make the landscape look like an amazing fantasy world. They are featured in movies like The Man with the Golden Gun and The Incredibles, but if you ever thought they were fake, they aren’t.
8. Wave Clouds
Wave clouds are the “caps” of waves of air, just like waves on the sea. It is an amazing site that you can witness anywhere in the world, usually before storms. They are most prevalent around mountains, and usually indicate that conditions are good for gliding.
9. Meteorite Shower
A few times a year, Earth passes through debris fields in space, and the result is a meteor shower. The meteors all appear to fall from a single point because the stones are all falling parallel. The fields the earth passes through are left behind by comets; they are the leftovers from the tail you see as a comet passes. The regularity of the showers like the Leonids is caused by the fact that comets have orbits around the sun just like planets, and they follow a very regular pattern along the orbital plane, just like earth. This leaves a regular, predictable trail of debris. It also means we get these awesome shows on a regular basis.
10. Pancake Ice
Sometimes, in the arctic and antarctic, ice breaks up in agitated water, or forms in it, and pancake ice is the result. The plates of ice smack into each other over time, slowly freezing and growing, and this causes a rounded edge to form on them. They can range in size from several inches to several feet in diameter. They aren’t particularly notable beyond being freaking cool looking.
Remember the tower karsts up above? Well, you might recall that they are caused by acidic water corroding limestone. Well, that water has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is usually underground. Most water that passes through the ground will pick up some acidity from chemicals like carbon dioxide as it passes through, and limestone is a base, so it is dissolved easily by acids. However, as the water evaporates, the dissolved limestone is left behind. Flowstone is caused by dripping of water slowly spilling and leaving behind gradual deposits of limestone, building sheets of rock that look like flowing water, hence the name
12. Calcite Rafts
That isn’t a photoshop, and it also isn’t your eyes playing a trick. That is a calcite raft, and it is a thin sheet of stone floating on water. What happens is this: mineral-laden water drips into pools and leaves a thin layer of minerals at the top. Over time, this coalesces into plates of calcite which floats on the surface until it becomes too heavy for the surface tension of the water and sinks. I have seen pictures with hundreds of these things in a pool.
13. Ice Fumaroles
A fumarole is interesting mostly because it is a result of geologic activity; they are just holes in the ground with steam pouring out of them. They are like a gassy geyser. When they form in Antarctica, however, they are something to see. What you see in this picture is the result of years of steam spewing out and freezing. The steam coming out is too hot to freeze itself, but the outer edges of the steam column cool and collects. Over time, this forms a hollow cone that continues to grow until it becomes too heavy and falls over.
Author: David Dietle — Copyrighted © roadtickle.com