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The Most Fascinating and Rare Natural Phenomena on Earth

Blood Rain

Reports of blood rain–red rain falling from the sky–has been reported since ancient times. A unique phenomenon happened over the course of two months in the southern Indian state of Kerala when red and other color rain fell periodically, staining clothes and surfaces red and pink. It was later decided that the even was due to a strange disturbance in airborne alga spores.

Fire Whirls

Affectionately called firenados, fire whirls can happen when certain air temperatures and currents pass over a fire, which can then rise in the whirling form of a column, much like a tornado.

Upward Lightning

While very rare, upward lightning can occur immediately after a regular lightning strike near a tall object has already shifted the electrical field in the air. An electrical charge can then start in the tall object and move its way skyward.

Fire Rainbow

Technically called a circumhorizontal arc, these aren’t rainbows at all. These happen when light passes through clouds at a high altitude, and a bright color spectrum forms between the many ice crystals in the cloud.

Fallstreak Hole

Also called a hole punch cloud or a skypunch, this awesome phenomenon gives the appearance of a giant hole missing from a cloud. This can occur when the water temperature in the clouds is below freezing but the water particles have not yet frozen. When the ice crystals finally form, they water droplets evaporate suddenly and in a domino effect, resulting in a missing hole.

Crown Snow-Load

This heavy accumulation of snow and hard rime (white ice) is only possible in extremely cold climates. One region famous for its surreal winter landscapes is the Finnish Lapland.

Lenticular Clouds

These stationary, lens-shaped clouds can appear by themselves or in layers, typically at higher altitudes. They occur when moist air is forced around natural or manmade objects under specific wind conditions. Not surprisingly, they have been mistaken for UFOs.

Mammatus Clouds

These fascinating clouds get their name from the Latin word for ‘udder’ as they actually hang down from the underside of larger clouds. They might be awesome to look at, but watch out! Mammatus clouds are indicators of severe storms.

Morning Glory Clouds

This rare type of cloud formation only occurs regularly in Northern Australia. Easily identifiable for their elongated, round, and serpentine shape, Morning Glory clouds are bands of roll clouds than can be hundreds of miles long. They form due to specific sea breezes and landscapes, especially when the humidity is high.

Earthquake Lights

The mysterious phenomenon of earthquake lights are reported to be white/ blue or rainbow lights or orbs that have been reported over time near areas of high seismic activity. Though not fully understood, research suggests that ions released from certain types of rocks can escape to form plasma that momentarily emits light in the air.

Red Sprites and Blue Jets

These terms refer to rare and fleeting upper-atmospheric lightning events that coincide with storm systems. Often orange-red in color, sprites burst upward from thunderstorm clouds and often occur in clusters. Blue jets, on the other hand, happen much less frequently and are not believed to be directly caused by lightning, but more with hail.

Catatumbo Lightning

The eponymous Catatumbo Lightning only occurs above the mouth of the Catatumbo River in Venezuela. It consists of a massive, nonstop lightning storm that happens between 140 and 160 nights a year with thousands of lightning strikes an hour. The spectacular phenomenon is attributed to winds blowing across the large, open Maracaibo Lake before becoming enclosed on three sides by mountain ranges, thus resulting in thunderstorm activity from the trapped heat and moisture.

Hessdalen Lights

This natural phenomenon remains unexplained and only occurs along the Hessdalen valley in central Norway. Typically red, yellow, or bright white, they only happen at night and have been reported since the 1930s. Some hypotheses attribute the lights to the unique geological construct of the area, and that they are most likely caused by ionised dust in the air.

Condo Effect Fog

These “tsunami clouds” are caused when the onshore breeze is forced over tall buildings on the coast and the water in the rising air condensed with the dropping temperatures, causing fog.

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