Top 10 Bizarrely Beautiful Natural Phenomena

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Top 10 Bizarrely Beautiful Natural Phenomena

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Nick Roffey

Nature can be as strange as it is stunning. From Supercells, to Frost Flowers, to Lenticular Clouds, these natural occurrences will have you in awe. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Bizarrely Beautiful Natural Phenomena.

Special thanks to our user MIAMIHEATFlashKingCB for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Most+Incredible+Natural+Phenomena.
Transcript
Script written by Nick Roffey

Top 10 Bizarrely Beautiful Natural Phenomena


Nature can be as strange as it is stunning. Welcome to Watchmojo.com, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 bizarrely beautiful natural phenomena. For this list, we’re looking at weird natural events, patterns, and formations that both astonish and awe.

#10: Supercells

The grandeur of a good storm is difficult to deny. Supercells are the perfect example - colossal, rotating thunderstorms that lay bare the awesome might of mother nature. Formed when windshear creates a deep rotating updraft, supercells spin around a central vortex that seems set to swallow the ground below. The mammoth storms are as dangerous as they are magnificent, generating powerful tornadoes and hailstones larger than baseballs. Thanks to the mesocyclones at their heart, they’re also long lasting - often raging for hours before their fury is spent. Now that is intense.

#9: Frost Flowers

Nature doesn’t have to be big to be beautiful. Or unusual. These frozen meadows of white flowers are actually made from frost formed in calm, windless conditions on new sea and lake ice. The phenomena is rare, and occurs only when there’s a significant temperature difference between the air and the ice, which allows vapour to condense and grow crystals that spread over the surface. Ice crystals of all sorts often have exquisite and organic looking structures, but the clustered nature and dendritic architecture of frost flowers makes them seem particularly plantlike. This is nature’s “Frozen”.

#8: Lenticular Clouds

When you think about it, it’s already kind of strange enough that vast bodies of water are, essentially, drifting over our heads. But clouds also come in particularly peculiar varieties - including mother-of-pearl nacreous clouds; turbulent, rolling waves of asperitas clouds; and one of the oddest of all. lenticular clouds, which are both stationary and lens-shaped. They often form over mountains, created by winds that rise up and flow over in oscillating waves on the other side. Hovering over the Earth like alien motherships, they might be responsible for more than a few UFO sightings. The Truth Is Out There!

#7: Fire Rainbows

It isn’t a metal band, it isn’t fire, and technically it isn’t a rainbow, either. But circumhorizontal arcs, colloquially known as “fire rainbows”, resemble both the latter. The bright, multi-colored bands, which hang parallel to the horizon beneath the sun or moon, are halos created when light is refracted through hexagonal ice crystals suspended in cirrus and cirrostratus clouds. Since they only occur when light hits the crystals at just the right angle from high up in the sky, solar circumhorizontal arcs are only visible between the latitudes 55° north and 55° south, where when conditions are right, they streak across the sky like colored flames.

#6: Penitentes

High up in the Andes, in Argentina and Chile, frozen figures seem to kneel in penance, huddled together facing the Sun. Called “Penitentes”, these ice shards, some of which rise 16 feet high, resemble the pointed hoods worn in penance processions during Spanish Holy Week. The semiarid air at elevations of over 13,000 feet in the Andes is so dry that snow sublimates - transforming into vapor without melting. This forms depressions that trap radiation; and eventually just these surreal fields of white spikes are left behind.

#5: Sailing Stones

In remote, ruggedly beautiful Racetrack Playa in California’s Death Valley, rocks sail across the dry lakebed, leaving long trails in the sand. For a century, their movements, never observed, remained mysterious. Was it magnetism? A teenage prank? Did the rocks just want to move? It was only in 2013 that researchers finally watched the stones in motion, using motion-activated GPS and time-lapse photography. Turns out that thin sheets of ice blown across the mud in the lakebed sometimes drag the rocks with them - creating the illusion that they’re scuttling about when no one is looking.

#4: Rainbow Eucalyptus

Up close, their trunks resemble abstract art more than tree bark. Vibrant colors streak down in careful layers, the topmost like long vertical brushstrokes on the wood. Native to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, rainbow eucalyptus trees are prized for their unusual painted look. As the tree’s thin outer bark peels off, the green bark beneath changes color to blue, purple, orange, and finally maroon. Since the strips are shed at different times, the trees become spectacular prismatic columns that can tower up to 250 feet tall. To quote a renowned philosopher . . . Whoa.

#3: Volcanic Lightning

Again, not a band name (although it should be). Volcanoes are the ultimate symbols of nature’s power. Their eruptions shake the earth, blacken the sky, and set the ground on fire. And as if molten rock and pyroclastic clouds weren’t enough, volcanoes can also generate lightning. During phenomenon known as “dirty thunderstorms”, ash particles rub against each other, the friction moving electrons from one to the other, leaving them with positive or negative charges. As the particles hurtle off into separate positively and negatively charged areas, electricity flows between them, and lightning crackles through the plume. And there’s the shocking truth.

#2: Bioluminescent Waves

These waves light up with a bizarre inner glow, and seem to leave behind stars stranded on the sand. The eerie electric light is created by phytoplankton that react to mechanical disturbances in the water. During the day, they spread in algal blooms that stain the sea red, known as the “red tide”; but at night, their biochemical reactions light the water neon blue, emitting flashes that researchers think are supposed to scare off potential predators - perhaps by attracting bigger fish to eat whatever’s eyeing them up. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, right?

Before we reveal the identity of our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:

Columnar Basalt
Sun Dogs
Mammatus clouds

#1: Auroras

Most of the time, we’re happily oblivious to the solar wind that constantly pummels Earth’s magnetic field. But when the dancing light of auroras fans out across the sky, we’re suddenly witness to powers much bigger than us. Auroras occur in Earth’s northern and southern regions, when the solar wind hits the magnetosphere, sending charged particles toward the poles on a collision course with oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the upper atmosphere. For viewers below, it’s as if a cosmic curtain has parted, and we’ve glimpsed normally invisible forces at work. The lights seem otherworldly, and remind us how weird and wonderful our home actually is.
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