For decades, pilots had reported large flashes of light extending high above thunderstorms, but their reports were largely discounted by the scientific community until the late 1980s when the existence of a new atmospheric phenomenon was confirmed by instruments flying aboard Space Shuttle Discovery.
On June 9th, 2021, macro snowflake photographer and pizza expert Nathan Myhrvold was on the hunt to photograph this rare atmospheric disturbance near Lake DeSmet in Wyoming, when he snapped an amazing picture.
"Sprites" are large-scale electrical discharges that occur far above an active thunderstorm, triggered by powerful lightning strikes below. These elusive phenomena are rarely photographed, as they only last a few milliseconds, above the troposphere where weather occurs, in the mesosphere. Fleeting and barely detectable by the human eye, red sprites can reach up to 30 miles high and usually form clusters that resemble jellyfish or carrots.
To create this photo, Myhrvold used an extremely fast telephoto lens, aimed blindly at a spot in the sky where he hoped a sprite might occur, then took a series of images. The images were stacked to reduce background noise, and this dramatic picture of luminous reddish-orange flashes dancing in the night sky was the end result.
His other photographic passion is snapping extremely high resolution photos of snowflakes. After 18 months of painstaking work, Myhrvold created a one-of-a-kind camera used just for capturing close-up photos of winter's tiny geometric beauties. His unwavering perseverance resulted in the highest-resolution snowflake images on record.
This photo was one of 21 finalists for the Royal Meteorological Society’s Weather Photographer of the Year contest, in partnership with AccuWeather. The 2021 contest's public voting period ends September 23, so get your votes in soon. Visit here to vote.
At a glance, it may not look like this image is much of a weather pic, but this was a classic case of the weather playing a supporting role and permitting a skilled photographer the fleeting chance to capture a great photo. It took months of planning, said Christian Hartmann, the chief photographer in France for Reuters who shot it, along with some quick-thinking improvisation.
Hartmann, 44, let AccuWeather in on the secrets to nailing this cool pic: He used SunSurveyor, an app that allows users to visualize where the sun and moon will appear in the sky at various times in the future. Next, Hartmann said, a perfect location was necessary. "I noticed a possible view line from the forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye," which is about 15 miles outside of Paris. Two days before the rise of the supermoon, Hartmann visited the location for a veritable dress rehearsal. Lights, camera ... almost supermoon! The nearly full supermoon he shot looked great. All he needed next was for the weather to play its part as a supporting character on the big night.
"I had just to pray for a windy (but not too windy) blue sky day," Hartmann said. "Without wind, there will be sort of [a] haze on the horizon and no chance to get the real moonrise. The moon would appear too late over the haze. With too much wind there is no chance to stabilize" a 600-millimeter lens mounted on a tripod. Sure enough, at 9:46 p.m. "the moon was here, right on the spot, as expected just behind the Eiffel tower."
But what about the clever spotlight effect on the moon? Like all great performers, Hartmann was able to pull off some quick improvising. "I noticed then that an appropriate shutter speed could capture the luminous beam from the rotating beacon on top giving the feeling that the moon is lighted by the landmark," he recalled. He fiddled with the camera's settings before finding the right shutter speed. But time was running out as the moon would soon be moving too high in the sky to create the effect. He concentrated. "One shot, no second chance," he said. And then ... "Sometimes things work like expected!"
For the past six years, a satellite called DSCOVR has been capturing stunning images of the Earth from nearly 1 million miles away, but early in its mission, it revealed a side of the planet’s cosmic partner that goes unseen even by the largest telescopes.
The Earth-facing camera on DSCOVR “maintains a constant view of the fully illuminated Earth as it rotates, providing daily scientific observations,” NASA has said.
On July 16, 2015, DSCOVR spotted Hurricane Delores churning over the eastern Pacific Ocean shortly before it ushered flooding rainfall into Southern California. In the very same photo the satellite captured of Dolores, an otherworldly object blocked part of its view of the Earth, nearly eclipsing the hurricane below.
On that day, DSCOVR shed some light on the "dark side" of the moon as it passed directly between the satellite and the Earth.
The images relayed back to Earth have enough detail to pick out features of the moon’s surface that are never visible from Earth. This includes the 44-mile-wide Jackson Crater and the "Sea of Moscow," which is one of the very few areas on the far side of the moon that was formed by an ancient volcanic eruption.
One of the best-selling albums of all time, Pink Floyd's 1973 album 'The Dark Side of the Moon' was renamed 'Eclipse' temporarily, due to a conflict with another album's name. The album's cover features a prism breaking light down into 6 colors -- omitting violet, which you would see in a real prism or rainbow. The prism theme sans violet motif was reimagined in a new design for Pink Floyd's 2021's 'The Pink Floyd Exhibition.'
A double rainbow was captured by Penn State Football in State College, Pa., on June 14, 2021.
The "secondary bow" above the first reverses the colors of the primary rainbow, as the sun's rays are reflected twice. If it looks like there's a shadow under the main rainbow, you're right -- those are additional rainbows known as "supernumerary bows" that typically show up as pink, purple, or green fringes.
This rainbow is particularly low in the sky, photographed at 5:30 PM, more than three hours before sunset in Central Pennsylvania during mid-June. Rainbows can't be seen for several hours on either side of solar noon, so you'll never see one around lunchtime. Technically, they may still be there but are below the horizon. The biggest, highest rainbows are captured just after sunrise and just before sunset.
Pictured under the rainbow are legendary Mount Nittany and the area known as "Happy Valley." The legend of the Native American maiden Nita-nee says that her burial ground expanded overnight from a modest mound to what is today known as Mount Nittany, forever mitigating persistent crop damage from a cold, cruel north wind. Penn State's official website says this legend has "no basis in fact" but any student attending Penn State today knows that cold north wind is a cruel foe, as they walk to class on campus -- north of Mount Nittany's protection.
It looks like it could be a Microsoft Windows desktop wallpaper image or a place described in a J.R.R. Tolkien book -- but this alluring yet peaceful view is no virtual world or literary fantasy. It's pure reality and was captured on a misty morning in Vietnam.
Vu Trung Huan, the photographer who captured this ethereal image, explained what makes the setting so unique. "Long Coc tea hill in Tan Son has mysterious and strange features when the sun is not yet up. Hidden in the morning mist, the green color of tea leaves still stands out. Early in the morning, holding a cup of tea, taking a breath of fresh air, watching the gentle green stretches of green tea hills. It is true that nothing is equal!" He went on to say that for early risers who like to catch the sunrise, this is a place where one can "most clearly feel the transition between night and day." What was also apparent in the photo, he said, was that "When the sun is up, everything is tinged with sunlight and on the tea buds there is still glittering morning dew, a pure beauty that makes you just want to embrace everything."
Tea trees, featuring leaves that stay dark green all year round, are primed for growing and harvesting in this particular area of Vietnam, which enjoys favorable weather and has phenomenal soil. The summers are exceedingly wet and hot with temperatures above 90 F on average, while the winters are dryer and cooler, with daytime temperature readings maxing out closer to 60 F.
This photo won 2nd Place in the Royal Meteorological Society’s Weather Photographer of the Year 2020 contest. The 2021 contest entry period (now with a mobile phone category) ends June 29, 2021, so get your photos submitted soon. Visit here for more info and to enter.
Neil and Danae Serfas were witnessing a truly remarkable sight: a long, wispy rope tornado dancing across the Canadian Prairie. Neil and Danae had watched a storm form over their canola fields and decided they had better check for hail damage. But as they drew closer, they realized that what they were witnessing was not your typical summer storm – it was rotating. “We saw the tornado on the ground start to grow in size,” Serfas told AccuWeather. “We watched it for almost 15 minutes from start to finish.” Rope tornadoes, which are the most common type, can put on dazzling shows as they dissipate. “I had always wanted to see a tornado, and it was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget!” Serfas said. They even caught some awesome video of it.
Tornadoes are not all that uncommon in Canada; Canada sees the second most tornadoes in the world, only behind the United States. The Canadian tornado season ramps up over the summer as the jet stream moves north. “The jet stream typically reaches its farthest point north during July and August,” AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Anderson explained. “This also allows very warm and humid air to reach farther north into Canada, which is critical for the needed instability and energy to grow and feed severe thunderstorms and possibly tornadoes.”
Christopher Balladarez, a professional photographer from California, was out on an uneventful photo shoot at sunset May 25, 2021. He had almost packed up his gear when the sky exploded in color. Balladarez was witnessing a sunset paint bright orange hues onto lenticular clouds, also called “wave clouds.”
Lenticular clouds are different from other clouds because they don’t form and move along, but rather sit in one place, continually re-formed as air moves through them. They are the result of air rising to its condensation point over and downstream of an object, typically a mountain, although they can also result from waves generated in the atmosphere itself. The complex and unpredictable air currents over the Sierra Nevada mountains were given their own name, the Sierra Wave, when discovered in 1950 and can help glider pilots sail higher and longer in the skies.
Balladarez explained to AccuWeather how an uneventful evening abruptly turned into the opportunity to shoot one of his favorite photos.
“This night was one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever witnessed. Hanging around the Sierra Nevadas long enough, you're bound to see these insane lenticular clouds in the sky. As we were getting our stuff ready to head back home because the sky wasn't really looking like it was going to burn, last second the entire sky lit up like nothing I have ever seen. As a travel photographer, I absolutely love putting subjects in my landscape images to express the scale of the location. I had my buddy run down as far as he could to stand on those rocks for me as I compressed the layers of the image with a telephoto lens to make the background only the lenticulars burning. I'll never forget this day. Hands down one of my favorite images I've ever shot."
AccuWeather Meteorologist and storm chaser Tony Laubach took this picture on the evening of June 11, 2021, in Nisland, South Dakota. His aim was to photograph lightning that night, but he assumed he'd have plenty of time before the rain and hail derailed his plans. He managed to snap only three photos before "the sky unloaded" a barrage of rain and hail that pounded him and his chase vehicle.
Lightning can travel far away from a storm, so if you're attempting lightning photography it's crucial to remain in the car, even if you leave your camera outside.
The next time a clash of thunder or a flash of lightning startles you, be thankful you weren’t in Brazil on Oct. 31, 2018. That Halloween night, the record for the longest-traveling lightning strike was broken when a bolt stretched 440 miles across the southern region of the country. Scientists at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed the record in a recent American Geophysical Union journal publication.
Ever since he was a little kid, Christian Hernandez has had a fascination with weather. “Mom used to get mad at me because I would stare out the window the entire time it was storming outside,” he told AccuWeather. That weather intrigue has never left Hernandez, now 32, and last June, just a couple of days into summer, it helped him capture an extraordinary photo of a shelf cloud that was looming over Clovis, New Mexico, which is east of Albuquerque, right near the border with Texas. “That evening I looked north of town and noticed a beautiful shelf cloud approaching,” Hernandez recalled. So he grabbed his keys and he and his wife, Stormi, hopped in their Dodge Ram pickup truck “and headed towards an open field in my neighborhood to get a clear shot.”
Once the couple arrived at the spot, Hernandez said he began to appreciate just how sweeping the shelf cloud was. “Being there in person was epic, like a scene out of Independence Day,” he said, referring to a famous moment in the 1996 Will Smith sci-fi thriller. He said the couple “sat in the back of my truck and admired the view,” though he noted that Stormi was “definitely freaked out by it.” Then, he pointed his iPhone 11 at the sky, snapped a few photos and recorded some video to memorialize the spectacle as the dark layered cloud began to blot out the setting sun. Stormi said the shelf cloud “looked like an alien invasion,” Hernandez remembered. Also, that moment was something of a culmination of his lifelong interest in sensational weather. There he was, gazing upward at a jaw-dropping weather creation that was the result of a stormy sky, his wife Stormi by his side. “I did think back to when I was a kid,” he said, “especially since the cloud formation was out of this world.”
Alex Wides captured this amazing 360-degree panorama, in which the moon illuminates the Tre Cime di Lavaredo (Three Peaks of Lavaredo) in Italy. Fog surrounds a large wooden cross and the photographer's tent on top of Mount Paterno, which peaks at an elevation of 9,000 feet. Above the cross, the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) is visible. A magnified shadow of the photographer and the cross is also cast onto the fog below, an optical phenomenon called a "Brocken Spectre," so named for the peak in Germany where it is frequently sighted.
Wides spent more than a month seeking the best weather for photographing the mountainside during late summer, looking for the clearest conditions under the influence of high-pressure weather systems. The hike up Mount Paterno took four hours, and he was stuck in the fog most of the time. After eating dinner and waiting for hours, the curtain of fog lifted, and the moon illuminated this magical scene. The cross on Mount Paterno is a memorial to Sepp Innerkofler, an Austrian mountaineer who died in 1915 defending the mountain against Italian forces during World War I.
The photo was shortlisted in the Royal Meteorological Society’s Weather Photographer of the Year 2020 contest. This year’s contest entry period ends June 29, 2021, so get your photos submitted soon, and don’t forget that this year also features a Young Photographer winner, as well as a Mobile Phone category. Visit here for more info and to enter.
Pools of lava boiling out of the ground are often affiliated with volcanoes around the world, but one volcano nestled in the mountains of Oregon is filled with another, human-friendly substance.
More than 7,000 years ago, Mount Mazama in southern Oregon blew its top in a cataclysmic eruption to create what is now known as Crater Lake National Park. The volcano is still considered active to this day, but it has not had an eruption in nearly 5,000 years. Since then, the large crater created by the massive eruption has filled in with water from rain and snowmelt, forming a pristine, crystal blue lake that entices swimmers from around the world. However, swimmers should prepare for a chilly dip as the water in the lake only gets up to 60 degrees F during the hottest part of the summer, the National Park Service said. This may still be a quick, refreshing dip for summer visitors when the air temperature during the afternoon reaches the 70s and 80s F.
Crater Lake National Park is also known for its breathtaking scenery and starry night sky. Established in 1907, the park welcomes more than 700,000 visitors per year.
Photojournalist Karen Ducey was out on assignment for Reuters in mid-May 2021, carrying out the task of capturing images that would illustrate the Seattle real estate scene. Ducey, a New York native who moved to Seattle 30 years ago, has two decades of photojournalism experience under her belt. “I usually shoot breaking news assignments or in-depth environmental or social justice issue projects,” Ducey told AccuWeather. “Weather is critical in every photo I shoot outdoors. It can either make or break the shot.” It’s safe to say that the weather made the above shot, which Ducey captured while she was out on that news feature assignment.
At around nine in the morning, from a vantage point near Marshall Park on Queen Anne Hill, Ducey saw it. “Low clouds over the Puget Sound provided a clean backdrop that separated the Olympic Mountains from the cargo ship and the boat marina and Magnolia neighborhood,” Ducey recalled. “It was kind of a mini mountain range in and of itself.” As the tranquil mid-morning scene played out, Ducey said, the stern of the ship would occasionally disappear into the fog. But, using her trusty Canon R5, which was equipped with a Canon EF 70-200-millimeter lens, she managed to nail a shot in which the entire ship was visible. “I wasn’t the only one snapping pictures,” she added. “Every runner, bicyclist, tourist, baby stroller jogger or dog walker was holding up their cell phone. We’re lucky to live in such a beautiful city on mornings like this.”
Ducey said the difference between covering breaking news and feature items means sometimes having “to actively search for something interesting to tell a story.” What was the story she ended up telling in this case? Perhaps the story was a question that sprang into her mind when she and others were documenting the splendor of Puget Sound that day: “Who wouldn’t want to live there?”
Mindaugas Gasparavičius, a founding member of the Lithuanian storm-chasing team Sky Chasers LT, shot these striking photos of mammatus clouds appearing on the back side of a heavy, convective snow shower in late April. Bulbous in appearance, mammatus clouds can occur underneath many different cloud types, but typically the most impressive are those that occur with thunderstorms, under the back side of the “anvil cloud” after severe weather has cleared. They can lend an eerie feel to the sky after severe weather passes.
Gasparavičius explained the weather setup that permitted these extraordinary images. "The whole week in Lithuania was much colder than it should've been, and so we all spent the whole week chasing fast-moving clouds full of snow pellets,” also known as graupel, he told AccuWeather, adding that he “was storm chasing about 20 miles northeast of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, near the Belarus border.” Gasparavičius said weather conditions didn't change at all that week, including on Sunday, apart from one main difference that caught his eye above: “I noticed a more angry-looking cloud, with some kind of shelf cloud in front. That cloud was also producing an enormous amount of snow pellets, so I had to wait inside my car until it had passed. Behind that shower were the mammatus clouds, against a bright clear sky, and the sun was about to set. The light, position and time were perfect,” he recalled. “I set up one camera for a time-lapse, and I took some pictures with the second camera, using several different lenses -- 35-millimeter, 50-millimeter and 100-millimeter -- on my full-frame Canon 5DMK4."
Death Valley is known as one of the hottest spots on Earth, holding the official world record for the highest temperature ever observed when the mercury soared to 134 F on July 10, 1913. The scorching heat is not a deterrent for some visitors who travel to the park to stand at Badwater Basin, the lowest (and typically hottest) part of the park that sits at 282 feet below sea level. But on March 6, 2019, photographer Elliot McGucken traveled to the California park for a completely different reason. Instead of experiencing intense heat, McGucken arrived at the park and saw an incredibly rare sight. Heavy rain caused the park to transform into a giant oasis.
“It was breathtaking!” McGucken told AccuWeather during a phone interview. “I was just hoping to see some water down in Badwater Basin. It was in a totally different place than what I was [originally] thinking.” On that day, 0.87 of an inch of rain soaked the arid landscape, or roughly 37% of the park’s annual rainfall in just a few hours. Instead of sinking into the ground, it pooled on the hard desert floor, creating a lake that was approximately 10 miles wide. McGucken estimated that the water was only around 6 inches deep, but in the past, extreme rainfall caused the lake to be deep enough for kayakers to paddle across the park.
More than 11,000 readers voted this photo by Alexey Trofimov to the top of the list in the Royal Meteorological Society's Weather Photographer of the Year contest. The 2021 entry opens April 29, 2021, and includes a new category for amateur photographers to showcase photos snapped on a smartphone. Visit here for more info and to enter.
Located in Siberia, Lake Baikal is the deepest, largest freshwater lake in the world and is almost 400 miles long. Renowned for its turquoise ice formations, Lake Baikal is covered with ice for nearly five months out of the year, with temperatures below zero in the winter. The color of the ice is spectacular, like a wonderful turquoise gemstone. Even though it is otherworldly, this picture transports the viewer to the ice-bound lake. Trofimov said the weather there is crucial for making such a sensational winterscape. "Lake Baikal in Russia is a unique natural site. Its geographical location creates unique weather conditions. Baikal ice is a special magic. For several months, Baikal wears a mantle, interspersed with precious stones."
During mid-April, Surigae rapidly strengthened to super typhoon status over the Philippine Sea. At one point, it was packing 190-mph sustained winds and made a dangerously close approach to the Philippines, but as the storm changed direction, it transitioned to a post-tropical area of low pressure across the North Pacific Ocean -- and then exploded into an even larger storm while passing well to the east of Japan and eastern Russia. A view of the massive storm was captured from thousands of miles above the Earth by the NOAA/CIRRA satellite.
As it moved over the northern Pacific Ocean, the former super typhoon underwent a process called bombogenesis in which a storm’s barometric pressure lowers by at least 24 millibars (mb), or 0.71 inches of mercury, in 24 hours. In Surigae’s case, the barometric pressure fell from an estimated 990 mb (29.24 inches of mercury) early on April 26 to 952 mb (28.11 inches of mercury) during the afternoon of April 27. This was a drop of 38 mb (1.13 inches of mercury), easily surpassing the 24 mb criteria. Although it didn't bring significant impacts to land, the storm produced hurricane-force winds across the northern Pacific, which could have impacted shipping and sent large waves radiating outward for thousands of miles.
In late January 2021, Scott Mackaro was walking his daughters to school in Erie, Colorado, at around 8:30 in the morning and they were awestruck by the scene developing around them. “We saw all of the trees literally sparkling,” Mackaro said. The temperature that morning in Erie, which is just outside of Boulder, was a bone-chilling 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and the dew point was 2.5 degrees F. They were perfect conditions to create a weather phenomenon known as freezing fog. Mackaro, who is AccuWeather’s Vice President of Science, Data and Innovation, whipped out his iPhone X and shot a photo of the surreal scene, which almost resembled a nuclear winter – the sun hanging in the sky, but dulled by the freezing fog that shrouded the area.
Freezing fog is fog that forms when the temperature at the surface is at or below the freezing mark, 32 degrees F. Freezing fog can also create a distinct type of ice known as rime ice. According to the National Weather Service in Spokane, Washington, rime forms as supercooled water droplets freeze on contact, commonly forming needle-like structures, which was precisely what could be seen in Mackaro’s photo. “It was fascinating to see the sun shining through the frozen fog and the frozen rime on the branches was too beautiful not to photograph. I routinely take photos of interesting weather,” he said, “so this was a no-brainer.” However, the rime ice left by the frozen fog is a most delicate creation of nature, as Mackaro and his kids found out. “A quick tap on the tree and everything fell to the ground,” he said.
A senior year of high school usually creates life-long memories, but one during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic was nothing short of disappointing for some. The class of 2020 missed out on the key celebrations that typically come with the momentous milestone of graduating high school, including prom and walking to receive diplomas. But, for one senior, Cheyann, a normal graduation photoshoot turned into an “unforgettable” memory — one that, with a little help from Mother Nature, ended up going viral on social media.
Christy Turner, a Canada-based photographer, captured stunning photos of a family friend’s daughter, explaining that “I sure timed this photoshoot right!” She noted that the grad was "feeling down" due to missing out on festivities and not getting a chance to wear her beautiful gown, but that the “sky made up for it.” Upon reaching the grad’s family farm, the photographer was unsure if the shoot would go on as planned, since it was "storming violently in true southern Alberta form," Turner told AccuWeather in an interview. But, when the skies opened up and the pouring rain stopped, she knew from her experience as an avid storm chaser that the sky was about to turn into a one-of-a-kind backdrop. Distinct mammatus clouds undulated across the sky just as the sun began to set, illuminating the dramatic clouds in a golden hue.
The clouds that appeared in the surreal backdrop “are usually associated with thunderstorms, but not always,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Randy Adkins explained. “They form when moist air containing cloud droplets descends into a layer of drier air. In effect, it’s the opposite of how clouds form when sufficiently moist air rises and condenses into liquid water droplets.”
The photographer rushed Cheyann into position in front of the beautiful and fleeting scene, and one more factor came into play, clinching the perfect photoshoot as she pointed her camera. A small rainbow appeared just underneath the billowing clouds. The grad took advantage of the scenery and posed with the prism of colors, while she sat atop a white horse in her gown.
The sun was about to set on a frigid winter day in Crosby, North Dakota, when Jerry Walter spotted a pair of objects in the sky that almost looked like two suns, one on each side of the actual sun. This photograph, taken in 2006, was not edited but, rather, features a display of an optical illusion known as sun dogs. “Both are forms of ice halos, caused when ice crystals in the atmosphere reflect off of sunlight,” AccuWeather Meteorologist and Senior Weather Editor Jesse Ferrell said.
Similar to the way that water droplets can reflect light to create a rainbow, a thin layer of ice crystals high in the atmosphere can reflect light to create a splotch of light on one or both sides of the sun. In some instances when conditions are just right, a complete circle of light can appear around the sun, known as a 22-degree halo. These optical illusions are most commonly seen just before sunset. Ferrell said that the colors of a rainbow can be seen in both sun dogs and halos, although the colors are not typically as vibrant as those seen in a classic rainbow. Sun dogs are not particularly rare and can be seen when there is a thin layer of high cirrus clouds in the sky. However, onlookers should remember to never actually look directly at the sun itself as it can lead to serious eye damage.
The early bird gets the worm. Turns out that can be true in both fishing and photography.
It was a breezy 26-degree Fahrenheit morning on April 20, 2021, when photographer Adam Bjornberg, 28, crept out of his house to capture photos of the looming sunrise. He made his way toward the Canal Park area of Duluth, Minnesota, located along the shores of Lake Superior. As most of Duluth was still sleeping or only beginning to brew a pot of coffee, Bjornberg positioned himself to get a stellar sunrise shot. The only problem? Clouds. But after waiting a little while longer, his patience would pay off right around 6:05 a.m with a dazzling display.
"After first looks were looking poor we did get this explosion of color for a few minutes until the sun went behind the clouds," he wrote on his Facebook page.
As a radiant red sunrise glowed over the chilly lake waters, a lone fisherman, also undoubtedly looking to enjoy the tranquility of the early-morning hours, was captured in the picture not far from the Duluth Harbor North Breakwater Light. The image immediately brings to mind the old adage “Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.”
Bjornberg told AccuWeather that it was one of his favorite sunrise pictures he had ever taken. "I have been photographing this area for just over a year," Bjornberg said."[I] moved here in December of 2019."
"This is one of [my] favorite spots because I do a lot of photography of the shipping industry here in the Twin Ports of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin," Bjornberg said. "I also enjoy going up the North Shore of Minnesota along Lake Superior."
Bjornberg added that just before and after sunrise is his favorite time to shoot. "Blue hour/night photography is something I have been getting really into enjoying, especially for ship arrivals and departures. Being down by the water is a great way to start the day."
To see the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, in person is a treat like no other -- and also a major rarity. But seeing them on film or in still images is a beautiful experience as well. These amazing photos of the aurora were taken in Fairbanks, Alaska, near the University of Alaska on April 7, 2021, by Luke Culver, a National Weather Service meteorologist stationed there. Fairbanks can be an especially favorable place for viewing auroras because, during late fall and early winter, it experiences as much as 20 hours of darkness each day. Culver captured these remarkable visuals during a record cold snap, when temperatures plunged as low as 20 below zero F. The aurora Culver immortalized, glowing above a snow-covered landscape, is not only a dazzling sight in the night sky, but it’s circulating into a vortex that brings to mind a hurricane. Auroras (which can occur at both poles on Earth, as well as on other planets) are disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by the solar wind and exist at roughly 50 to 150 miles above the surface of the Earth.
Turbulence. Anyone who’s spent a fair amount of time traveling on airplanes knows what it feels like, but how many people know what it looks like? Many of us have felt mild turbulence while aboard a passenger jet, and extreme turbulence can feel and look positively terrifying – videos capturing the impact of severe turbulence show shocking scenes from inside the cabin and often go viral. But what does turbulence actually look like?
Well, we have a good idea of what turbulence can look like thanks to a photo recently shared on Twitter by the Hurricane Hunters. They caught one type of turbulence on camera during a recent mission: wake turbulence created by the aircraft’s wingtip vortices, the Hurricane Hunters noted in the social media post. Wake turbulence is caused when air is drawn from underneath the wing and pulled up to the top of the wing before being whipped into a vortex that spins off the end of the wing. The pilot known as “Captain Joe” has an in-depth explainer on YouTube that’s worth checking out. The bigger and heavier a plane is, and the faster it’s moving, the stronger the wake turbulence it is likely to create. As he explains, the issue is of the biggest concern as planes, often in close succession, approach landing at an airport and can encounter the previous plane’s wake turbulence.
In all, there are seven types of turbulence, and weather often is a factor in the formation of turbulence. Usually, it’s more of a nuisance than a genuine hazard for pilots and air passengers. As pilot and Cockpit Confidential author Patrick Smith told AccuWeather, "Avoiding turbulence is a combination of art and science. We take our cues from weather charts, radar returns and those real-time reports from other aircraft. Larger carriers have their own meteorology departments, and we get periodic updates from the ground.“ In this case, though, turbulence made for a super cool weather pic.
Lenticular clouds are commonly said to resemble space ships, and they can often be very fleeting, which adds to their mystique. In late January 2020, Greg Garrett captured a mesmerizing shot of a lenticular cloud looming over Tehachapi, California, early one morning. Tehachapi is nestled in the mountains about 100 miles north of Los Angeles. If lenticular clouds look like flying saucers, this one was the mother ship coming in for a landing amid the pinkish-orange glow of a smoldering sunrise.
"The Tehachapi area is known worldwide for its wind and wind patterns," Garrett, who works as the city manager, told AccuWeather. "Be it wind energy on the surface or Sierra Wave winds patterns that are used by the military and private to train and recreate in sailplanes in our beautiful region."
Also, take note of the terrain in this photo. According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell, lenticular clouds are formed when air moves over mountains, cooling sufficiently for condensation to take place. “They are continually reformed over the same location by new air rising up and over a mountain, condensing and producing the clouds,” Ferrell explained. Indeed, "Lennies," as Garrett put it to AccuWeather, "are a fairly common occurrence" above Tehachapi. The 56-year-old shot these spectacular images using an iPhone 7. He said it was hard to compare it to other lenticular clouds he's seen in the past, but, in the photos he captured in January 2020, "the colors seem to stand out in a way only Mother Nature can display in her own way."
The lenticular cloud takes its name from the Latin word lenticularis, according to Merriam-Webster, meaning lentil-shaped.
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was unlike any other in recorded history. It generated the most named storms in history, diving deeper into the rarely-used Greek alphabet than ever before. Only the frenetic 2005 season had previously required the usage of Greek nomenclature.
The hyperactive 2020 season got started early with two named storms being recognized in May, prior to the official June 1 start date. The season didn’t finally wind down until Hurricane Iota dissipated over Central America on Nov. 18. Prior to weakening, Iota was a force to be reckoned with. The Category 4 storm packed 155-mph sustained winds at its peak before pummeling parts of Nicaragua and Honduras, two countries that were still dealing with catastrophic damage from Hurricane Eta about two weeks prior. It's the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in Nicaragua.
High-resolution images captured by the European Union’s Sentinel satellite showed the massive eye of the high Category 4 Iota nearing landfall along the coast of Nicaragua on Nov. 16. A hurricane’s eye can often vary dramatically in size, ranging from a tiny pinhole to a cavernous opening. AccuWeather Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell said this image could show the storm "near the time of its minimum eye diameter." Depending on precisely when the photo was taken, it may show the eye at a diameter of about 16 miles.
Due to the damage and loss of life caused by Iota, the name was retired by the World Meteorological Organization’s hurricane committee at its annual meeting on March 17. But that’s not all. The committee also decided to do away with using the Greek alphabet to name storms, citing potential confusion and that doing so creates a distraction from the communication of hazard and storm warnings.
The sky around the nation's capital glowed in gold with pockets of orange on Oct. 30, 2020, as a silhouetted couple went for an evening stroll on the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The bridge, named after the man who authored "The Star-Spangled Banner" in 1814, has served as a link between Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia since it was completed in 1923. The bridge spans the Potomac River and was originally designed to provide, "automotive, trolley, and pedestrian transit," according to the DC Preservation League. Key was a resident of in the Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Georgetown in the early 19th century, the preservation league said.
But what's behind the vibrant change of color in the evening sky? It has to do with how the light is scattered through the atmosphere. "Sunlight is composed of all the colors of the rainbow," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Reneé Duff. "As the sun dips down over the horizon, sunlight has to pass through a thicker layer of the atmosphere compared to the daytime." The blue light that is visible during the day is scattered away from our eyes as the sun sets, allowing more orange and red light to pass through, Duff explained.
In late October 2020, a deep dip in the jet stream unleashed a burst of Arctic air that brought record-breaking cold to parts of the northern tier of the U.S. The temperature plummeted to an ungodly 29.2 degrees below zero on Oct. 25 in Potomac, Montana, in the Blackfoot Valley about 20 miles east of Missoula. On top of that, a storm system collided with the brutal cold and delivered significant snowfall. For Justin Iverson, a third-generation cattle rancher in Potomac, the bitter cold and heavy snow combination “was unprecedented” for that time of year, he told AccuWeather. It meant he had to change up the feeding routine for his cattle herd. He snapped a photo of that herd out in the snow and under a clear, sunny sky after the storm had moved out. The cows sure looked cold in the pic, but they weren’t, Iverson said.
“We run a cross[breed] of Red Angus and Simmental-Gelbvieh cattle that handle cold quite well,” Iverson told AccuWeather. “As long as they have plenty of feed and access to clean water they do fine. We routinely hit minus 30 Fahrenheit in January or February and have been as low as minus 37 since I took over the NWS COOP station a few years ago,” he said, referring to the help he provides monitoring weather conditions. So how the heck do the cattle not get cold in these brutal conditions? “The cows adapt to the cold by growing a dense layer of thick hair in the fall and shed[ding] it in the spring before summer,” Iverson explained.
According to Irish legend, there’s a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, and it’s guarded by a leprechaun. But in L.A., they do things differently, and instead of gold, they put palm trees at the end of rainbows, and they’re guarded by news photographers. Not really, of course, but back in November 2020, Damian Dovarganes, a photographer for The Associated Press, sort of made it look that way with some clever framing in a picture he shot in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles. The photo opportunity came courtesy of some stormy weather that hit the Southern California area following a dry, scorching summer and first six weeks of fall, during which a record wildfire season ensued. The vestiges of that stormy weather, in the form of dark clouds, made for an ominous-looking backdrop in Dovarganes’ pic. However, the precipitation the storms brought was much needed in helping ease some of the conditions that fueled the devastating wildfire season.
Standing 124 feet high, atop a 2,300-foot-tall mountain, “Christ the Redeemer” took nine years to complete and was built to withstand 124-mph winds. The reinforced concrete statue has weathered many storms and all sorts of harsh weather and has suffered only minor damage. High winds and rain continue to erode the stone, and lightning strikes in 2008 and 2014 marred the cultural icon, despite lightning rods that are in place on the head and arms. If you look closely at this photo, you can see the cables that carry the lightning's charge, the rods on the top of the head and the intricate soapstone triangles that cover the rough concrete.
Major restoration on the statue was performed in 1990 and 2010 and is scheduled again for 2021, the 90th anniversary of the statue’s completion. Restoration involves cleaning and replacing the mortar and soapstone and filling in cracks. The statue, finished in 1931, is the most recently-built structure awarded the "New Seven Wonders of the World" status.
Few natural wonders in the world are as awesome and majestic as the Grand Canyon in the American Southwest. What could possibly make the Grand Canyon appear even more sublime than it usually does? A coating of snow and clouds in the distance reflecting the setting sun at the end of the day. That is just the scene K. Thomas of the National Park Service captured with a photo taken in November 2020. If the Grand Canyon could sing, it might have sung a song of ice and fire on that day as K. Thomas pointed a camera lens in its direction. The photo shows the two opposites in all their glory: a few inches of freshly fallen snow cover the rock and cliff sides of the canyon’s South Rim in the frame’s foreground. At the top of the frame, the clouds almost appear to be burning as they reflect the day’s last rays of sunlight.