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Nine Strange Natural Phenomena You Have To See To Believe

Mon, May 23, 2011

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People travel all over the world to see strange natural wonders and unusual landscapes. But what about traveling to places where you can witness some of the weirdest natural phenomena on earth? Like this…

Aurora Borealis & Aurora Australis

No, it’s not a bird, it’s not a plane, and it’s definitely not an alien invasion; that strange glowing green light in the sky is an atmospheric phenomenon called an aurora. Auroras occur when solar winds crash into the earth’s atmosphere, causing ions, atoms and molecules to explode into neon light. What results is an amazing color show where waves of light twist and wind into the shape of ribbons and arcs. It’s kind of like looking at an iTunes visualizer in the sky.

When and Where can I see it: Auroras are at their brightest near equinoxes and two days after intense solar activity. They appear as rings around the poles, so poor Santa is often left in the dark. You probably know of the Aurora Borealis as the northern lights, and it’s best seen in Fairbanks, Alaska, parts of Eastern Canada and parts of Scandanavia in March and September. The Aurora Australis, or southern lights, are much more difficult to see unless you live on Antarctica, but you can sometimes catch glimpses in parts of Australia and South America. The best time to view an aurora is around midnight when the sky is darkest.

Catatumbo Lightning

Remember watching those cartoons where a dark cloud followed miserable people? Well, these villagers must be constantly miserable because there’s a dark cloud over this place all the time. Here, violent lightning storms take place between 140 and 160 nights a year, for 10 straight hours. The locals call it the “eternal storm.” There’s so much lightning activity in this one concentrated area that it’s considered the world’s largest regenerator of ozone on the planet. That means that this endless lightning storm is actually repairing the ozone layer. The storm is caused by masses of clouds that constantly crash into each other in this one area. Looks like a cool place to visit, but your odds of being struck by lightning probably increase dramatically.

When and Where can I see it: This strange atmospheric phenomenon occurs in Venezuela where the mouth of the Catatumbo River empties into Maracaibo Lake.

Ghostlights

Whether you call ‘em ghostlights, spooklights, St. Elmo’s fires, or will-o’-the-wisps, we can all agree that they’re weird as hell. Except scientists. They say that these weird orbs of flickering light that hover over swamps and forests are just airplanes or headlights in the distance — even though they’ve been around long before those were ever invented. Less skeptical people think the lights, which can only been seen at night, have a supernatural origin. Whatever the case may be, ghostlight hunting is just as exciting as UFO hunting.

When and Where can I see it: There are two places in America that you would never consider visiting if they didn’t have ghostlights. The first is Marfa, Texas, where the Marfa Lights can appear on Mitchell Flat any night, sometimes for a few seconds, sometimes for hours. The city even has an official ghostlight viewing platform. The other ghostlight hotspot is near Linville Falls, North Carolina. They’re called the Brown Mountain Lights and they appear between September and November. But don’t try to get too close to them or they’ll disappear.

The Morning Glory Cloud


One of the rarest cloud formations is a roll cloud, which is a low-lying tube-shaped cloud that appears to roll through the sky like a baker’s rolling pin. It’s so rare that most people will never see a roll cloud in their life. But there’s one spot on earth where roll clouds appear often. They call it the Morning Glory cloud, but we think a more accurate title would be the Morning Wood cloud. Sometimes there’s just one, sometimes there’s up to eight in a row, and they can stretch up to 1,000 kilometers in length.

When and Where can I see it: A complicated set of circumstances that are not entirely understood by scientists make the southern part of Northern Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria the only place on earth where a roll cloud can be predicted and observed on a regular basis. The best place to see them is in Burketown in September through November when every morning there’s a 40% chance the Morning Glory cloud will make an appearance.

Naga Fireballs


We thought Bowser’s castle was the only place where you had to watch out for fireballs that jumped out of a river, but apparently there’s a place on earth where that actually happens too. For hundreds of years, villagers in Thailand have believed that a serpent in the Mekong River spits out tens of thousands of egg-sized glowing red orbs to pay homage to Buddha at the end of the Buddhist Lent. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why this strange phenomenon happens at the same time every year, and some people say it’s a long-running hoax, but every year people from all over the world gather to watch the Naga fireballs shoot out of the Mekong river and rise hundreds of feet into the sky before disappearing. We think everything deserves a theme song, and fortunately there’s a song that explains how the Naga fireballs work.


When and Where can I see it:
The Naga fireballs (which the locals call bung fai paya nak) routinely appear around the night of Wan Awk Pansa in October on the Mekong River in Thailand and Laos.

Penitentes

Snow usually takes on this nice, soft, delicate shape as it blankets mountains and trees. But there’s a place where snow takes on the more ominous appearance of a knife. They’re called penitentes and they’re tall, thin blades of snow that point toward the sky. This natural phenomenon is the result of strong winds that compact the snow into blocks, where the sun then melts them into the shape of blades. Penitentes are named after the spiked hats of monks called nazarenos, which is a better sounding name than “dunce cap snow.”

When and Where can I see it: The largest penitentes — the ones that stand 6 feet tall — only appear in the Dry Andes at altitudes above 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) when the mountains are covered in snow.

Pororoca

The Pororoca wave is a surfer’s dream. Twice a year, the longest wave on earth rolls down the longest river on earth: the Amazon. This phenomenon is a result of tides in the Atlantic Ocean that converge at the mouth of the Amazon River and create a tidal bore that pushes waves as high as 12 feet down the river. The record for the longest distance covered by a surfer happened in 2003 when Picuruta Salazar rode a Pororoca wave almost 10 miles over 37 minutes.

When and Where can I see it: The Pororoca appears once in February and once in March along the Amazon River in Brazil.

Rain of Fish


Legend has it that when a Spanish Catholic missionary named Father Jose Manuel Subirana visited Honduras about a hundred and fifty years ago, he saw so many poor and starving people that he prayed for 3 days and 3 nights asking God to provide them with free food. Suddenly, a miracle happened… it rained fish from the sky. And as crazy as it sounds, the rain of fish STILL happens to this day. It starts just like any storm, but when the rains end, thousands of living fish are flopping on the ground, waiting for villagers to scoop them up and eat them. A scientific explanation is still up in the air, but if you can read Spanish, this might help.

When and Where can I see it: This strange phenomenon is called Festival de la Lluvia de Peces, or Festival of the Rain of Fishes, and it happens sometime between May and July in the city of Yoro, Honduras. Bring a bucket, a grill and a remixed version of “It’s Raining Men.”

Red Tides

To some, the sea turning red is a sign of the apocalypse. To everyone that isn’t related to that crazy religious family in Carrie, it’s a natural phenomenon called a red tide. This happens when microscopic algae suddenly multiply and turn the water red. It may look cool, but it’s deadly: the toxic algae paralyzes sea life and can kill over 100 tons of fish a day. Sometimes red tides can even turn into blue tides when certain bioluminescent plankton becomes agitated and causes the water to glow bright blue at night, kind of like the ocean’s version of a rave.

When and Where can I see it: Red tides occur most often along warm coasts. Your best chances of seeing a red tide are in Florida, the Gulf of Mexico and the Alantic coast of Mexico between August and February. (It’s nice to know that the sea turns red and festive during the holiday season.) Blue tides have been seen in Australia and California during the same time period, but are much rarer.

What’s the coolest natural phenomena that you’ve seen?

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20 Responses to “Nine Strange Natural Phenomena You Have To See To Believe”

  1. Elle says:

    Wow, this is incredible! It’s hard to imagine such fascinating things occurring on our own planet

  2. Anna says:

    Wow, that’s so cool! The only one of them I have seen, are the Aurora Borealis, and it’s absolutely beautiful! :D I wish I could see a few more of the phenomens listed here! Great list :)

  3. Wow – incredible and unique!

  4. bess says:

    You can see ghost lights in Michigan too, in the town of Paulding in the U.P. Google Paulding Light

  5. Kate says:

    When I was in high school at Balboa High in the Panama Canal Zone, it was a rite of passage to go skinny-dipping in the wee hours of the night in the French Locks. This is a deep slash in the land on the Pacific side where the French began to dig the first canal, until malaria stopped them. There is some form of tiny, phosphorescent life (algae?) in the water there, and when you dive in, you dive into a shower of stars. It was beautiful. I wish I had a picture.

  6. Sophie says:

    The green flash is one I’d like to see.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_flash

  7. Phillip says:

    I saw a fire rainbow — once. It was in Lemoore, CA, USA.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumhorizontal_arc

    It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been luck enough to see.

  8. Patty says:

    Yah..the geen flash is totally amazing, never saw it like that before..!!

  9. Patty says:

    The “Red Tide” with all those colors..is amazing..!!

  10. Vee says:

    Kate: I believe you are talking about phytoplankton. I don’t remember why it happens, but it has something to do with an abundance of them in the water I think. I live in Florida and it happens here sometimes as well. It is very pretty and fun to swim in.

    As far as the Red Tide, I’ve never seen the water actually turn red, but that could also be because I try to stay clear of the coast during that time. The smell is awful from all the dead fish, and it is often quite irritating for our eyes.

  11. Mandi says:

    I’ve seed raindbows at night in Tasmania. Phosphorescent algae near Vashon Island off the coast of Seattle. Synchronized Fireflies in the Smoky Mountains, and the Northern Lights!

    I would also like to note that there is also a place reported to have fireballs in Michigan as well as
    those strange lights. I haven’t witness either of these
    but I have heard stories and reports.

  12. smw14 says:

    We get red tide every year here in Puget Sound, in Washington State, as well; it’s not just in warmer places.

  13. Jose says:

    This list should include the two Bio Bays in Puerto Rico. On in Fajardo y a closed lagoon where at night the water is full of bioluminiscence. You go into the water and movement activates the microorganism which produce light. It is the most amazing thing one can see in our seas.

  14. Lala says:

    I agree with Jose. I was just going to post that they should’ve included PR.

  15. Rain says:

    There is red tide every year in Alaska yearly. And the beach was glowing blue from the phosphorescent bacteria that cause it. In January. Every where you stepped it twinkled blue like stars. Ps don’t eat shellfish in in Juneau AK right now usually safe this time of year. I’ve never seen the beach glowing under snow before. Red tides usually a summer/ warmer weather phenomenon here.

  16. Alex says:

    You’ve missed out on mentioning Australia’s Min Min lights. These are a little weirder then any of the “ghost lights” your list, as they have frequently been seen as bright balls hurtling down the road, looking like a car headlight. But when they zoom past, there is nothing there, just the light.

    It’s not really possible to give a best time, they seem to appear when they feel like it.

  17. Joe says:

    Enjoyed This story and I learned about one that I have seen.
    I saw a huge blue tide in the Carribean, thought it was called a milky sea. To this day the most amazing thing my eyes have seen!. Also cool is a “white rainbow” at night in Maui in October- rare and beautiful!

  18. Wow these photos are amazing – definitely adding them into my travel plans. The ghost-lights and Naga fireballs are the ones I would like too see.

Leave a Reply

    2 Responses to “Where To Travel In October: The World’s Best Festivals, Concerts and Celebrations”

    1. Elle says:

      Wow, this is incredible! It’s hard to imagine such fascinating things occurring on our own planet

    2. Anna says:

      Wow, that’s so cool! The only one of them I have seen, are the Aurora Borealis, and it’s absolutely beautiful! :D I wish I could see a few more of the phenomens listed here! Great list :)

    3. Wow – incredible and unique!

    4. bess says:

      You can see ghost lights in Michigan too, in the town of Paulding in the U.P. Google Paulding Light

    5. Kate says:

      When I was in high school at Balboa High in the Panama Canal Zone, it was a rite of passage to go skinny-dipping in the wee hours of the night in the French Locks. This is a deep slash in the land on the Pacific side where the French began to dig the first canal, until malaria stopped them. There is some form of tiny, phosphorescent life (algae?) in the water there, and when you dive in, you dive into a shower of stars. It was beautiful. I wish I had a picture.

    6. Sophie says:

      The green flash is one I’d like to see.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_flash

    7. Phillip says:

      I saw a fire rainbow — once. It was in Lemoore, CA, USA.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumhorizontal_arc

      It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been luck enough to see.

    8. Patty says:

      Yah..the geen flash is totally amazing, never saw it like that before..!!

    9. Patty says:

      The “Red Tide” with all those colors..is amazing..!!

    10. Vee says:

      Kate: I believe you are talking about phytoplankton. I don’t remember why it happens, but it has something to do with an abundance of them in the water I think. I live in Florida and it happens here sometimes as well. It is very pretty and fun to swim in.

      As far as the Red Tide, I’ve never seen the water actually turn red, but that could also be because I try to stay clear of the coast during that time. The smell is awful from all the dead fish, and it is often quite irritating for our eyes.

    11. Mandi says:

      I’ve seed raindbows at night in Tasmania. Phosphorescent algae near Vashon Island off the coast of Seattle. Synchronized Fireflies in the Smoky Mountains, and the Northern Lights!

      I would also like to note that there is also a place reported to have fireballs in Michigan as well as
      those strange lights. I haven’t witness either of these
      but I have heard stories and reports.

    12. smw14 says:

      We get red tide every year here in Puget Sound, in Washington State, as well; it’s not just in warmer places.

    13. Jose says:

      This list should include the two Bio Bays in Puerto Rico. On in Fajardo y a closed lagoon where at night the water is full of bioluminiscence. You go into the water and movement activates the microorganism which produce light. It is the most amazing thing one can see in our seas.

    14. Lala says:

      I agree with Jose. I was just going to post that they should’ve included PR.

    15. [...] covered mysterious natural phenomena before, but Nisha Sharma from Holiday365 is here to provide you with a little more information on [...]

    16. Rain says:

      There is red tide every year in Alaska yearly. And the beach was glowing blue from the phosphorescent bacteria that cause it. In January. Every where you stepped it twinkled blue like stars. Ps don’t eat shellfish in in Juneau AK right now usually safe this time of year. I’ve never seen the beach glowing under snow before. Red tides usually a summer/ warmer weather phenomenon here.

    17. Alex says:

      You’ve missed out on mentioning Australia’s Min Min lights. These are a little weirder then any of the “ghost lights” your list, as they have frequently been seen as bright balls hurtling down the road, looking like a car headlight. But when they zoom past, there is nothing there, just the light.

      It’s not really possible to give a best time, they seem to appear when they feel like it.

    18. Joe says:

      Enjoyed This story and I learned about one that I have seen.
      I saw a huge blue tide in the Carribean, thought it was called a milky sea. To this day the most amazing thing my eyes have seen!. Also cool is a “white rainbow” at night in Maui in October- rare and beautiful!

    19. Wow these photos are amazing – definitely adding them into my travel plans. The ghost-lights and Naga fireballs are the ones I would like too see.

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