We’ve all seen the power of Mother Nature in movies – terrifying tornadoes, violent volcanoes and even supercell cyclones. Other less well known phenomena of the natural world are, however, more fascinating and spectacular than any Hollywood producer could dream up.
This blue neon tide is caused by tiny plankton being disturbed by waves at night, emitting bioluminescence. Many creatures use this as an offensive/defensive mechanism. As the plankton are so small and number in the squillions, the effect is stunning. Which just goes to show you can always be pretty, even at the bottom of the food chain. A great example of this light was seen in California in 2011.
How on earth did those get there? By wind power actually. These cylinders are formed when the ground is icy, so the loose snow picked up by the wind doesn’t stick to it, but only to itself, forming the ‘roller’. There are very precise criteria for snow rollers to form, so they are very rare.
Apocalypse? No, these blobby clouds are not quite yet understood by science but are always formed during thunderstorms. They can appear anywhere – even humble Hertfordshire (2008). And, yes, they’re named after breasts, because that’s what they look like, no sniggering please!
Scientists believe that ice circles are caused by slow moving water and the eddies they create. The circling water makes ice discs by gently eroding the edges whilst a sheet of ice spins. Or they’re made by the crop-circle creating aliens, the jury’s out on this one.
Blue Holes are also known as vertical caves and can occur in water or in caves (the more typical horizontal ones). They have little water flow, so can’t support much more than bacteria, so best not to take the kids rock-pooling in these. This hole in Belize is 300m (984ft) across and 124m (407ft) deep and was ‘born’ 153,000 years ago. The deepest example is Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas and is 202m (663ft).
Catatumbo Lightning, Venezuela
The lightning that only appears over Catatumbo River, as it enters Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela, seemingly never ends. For 140-160 nights a year the lightning appears at 15 to 40 strikes a minute, sometimes totalling 40,000 times a night. The lightning is celebrated by locals (who presumably own black-out curtains) and is in songs, poems and the state flag. It has even saved them on a number of occasions, guiding fleets of ships to prevent invasions.
This isn’t a photo manipulation example, but actual stripes in icebergs. They are made by sediment (causing brown, yellow or black lines), algae (green stripes) or quickly frozen water, which doesn’t allow any bubbles and makes blue stripes. The usual white colour of icebergs is due to the air inside reflecting light as white.
Sailing Stones, or ‘Rolling Rocks’, are spooky and much less easy to fathom than the snow rollers. A snowman is heavy-ish, but a snowflake isn’t. A rock is a pretty solid, immovable object… for wind to try to shift… surely? Apparently not, as these stones do move and tracks are formed over a period of 3 to 4 years. They mostly seem to appear around Death Valley, California. The rocks go in different directions and a study showed one was 80lb (36kg). Reasons behind the moving rocks are a combination of flat terrain, high winds and tiny ice particles allowing the stones to ‘sail’.