5 Weird Weather Phenomena

willy willy dust devil

In this video we take a look at the science behind 5 of the weirdest weather phenomena.

Willy willy

Also known as dust devils, Willy willys are whirlwinds that can reach over 1000 feet in height. It is the dust and debris that get caught within them that makes them visible. They mainly occur in desert and semi-arid areas, where the ground is dry and high surface temperatures produce strong updrafts. In Navajo culture, willy-willy were thought to be the ghosts or spirits of the dead

Brocken spectre

A Brocken spectre is the large magnified shadow of an observer, cast onto clouds or mist. They are most often seen on mountain tops, when a person stands above cloud level. They can create the illusion of a giant shadowy figure seen dimly through the mist. Shifting water droplets in the cloud or mist can also make the shadow appear to move. Often the spectre will be combined with a circular ‘glory’, appearing as a rainbow halo around the shadow’s head.

Lenticular clouds

Usually formed behind hills or mountains, where the air is stable and winds at different heights are blowing from a similar direction. The wind is interrupted, the airflow undulates and condenses into these disc-shaped clouds. They can sometimes be seen as far as 60 miles downwind of the mountains that formed them. They are also believed to be one of the most common explanations for UFO sightings.

Aurora

Visible in the sky in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, usually near the poles, auroras are mysterious and beautiful natural light shows. They are caused by collisions between electrically charged particles released from the sun and gas molecules such as oxygen and nitrogen in the Earth’s atmosphere. Many cultures have myths relating to aurora – In Finland it was believed that the lights were caused by the firefox, who ran so quickly across the snow that his tail caused sparks to fly into the night sky.

Haboob

Haboob began as a name for intense dust storms over the Saharan desert, coming from the Arabic word meaning “strong wind”. It is now often used to describe powerful dust storms that occur in arid regions throughout the world. Haboobs can grow to be around 10,000 feet high and the strongest can travel over 100 miles. They are caused by strong wind, flowing down and out from thunderstorms or strong showers. These strong winds stir up a thick wall of dust, which can move at up to 60 mph.

7 Rare clouds types | Amazing Weather

Mammatus cloud

Most of us see clouds every day, but only very occasionally will you be lucky enough to spot one of these 7 particularly rare types – some of which can only be seen in very specific circumstances or locations.

Noctilucent clouds

One of the rarest and most beautiful of all cloud types. They are found at very high altitudes – up to around 250,000 feet Visible on clear, summers nights between 45 °N and 80°N latitude ,they appear illuminated by a blue or occasionally red or green light. We still do not know much about how they are formed, but they are thought to be made up of ice crystals.

Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds

They can sometimes be seen as far as 60 miles downwind of the mountains that formed them. An extremely rare phenomenon, where clouds form as a billowing wave pattern Occurs when there is a strong vertical shear between two air streams. This causes some winds to blow faster at the upper level, than at the lower level.

Mammatus clouds

Bulge or pouch shaped, they’re usually seen emerging from the anvil at the top of cumulonimbus clouds. Formed by turbulence, they are one of the few clouds that come from sinking, rather than rising air.

Lenticular clouds

Usually formed behind hills or mountains, where the air is stable and winds are blowing from a similar direction. These tall geographic features interrupt the wind, the airflow undulates and condenses into these disc shaped clouds.

Funnel clouds

Cone shaped clouds which extend from the cloud base, but never actually touch the ground. Formed in the same way as a tornado around a small area of intensely low pressure. If a funnel cloud reaches the land it becomes a fully fledged tornado and if the funnel cloud reaches the surface of a body of water, it becomes a waterspout.

Fallstreak Hole clouds

Also known as a hole punch cloud – they form when part of the cloud layer turns to ice crystals which are large enough to fall. Water droplets in the cloud, cooled below 0°C but not yet frozen, will freeze if they find a particle to freeze on to or are cooled to below -40°C. Aircraft can cause this to happen by making the air expand & cool as it passes through the cloud

Arcus cloud

Formed when warm air within a storm cloud is pushed up from the ground by the cold air exiting downwards. Unattached to the storm cloud they are known as roll clouds, but when attached they are called shelf clouds.