8 of the Craziest Natural Phenomena Out There (Photo Gallery)

Shadowy human figures seem to drift hauntingly through the mountains surrounded by rainbow light. Learn more about this and seven other strange and wonderful phenomena observed in nature.
8 of the Craziest Natural Phenomena Out There (Photo Gallery)
Brocken spectre on Mount Ontake, in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Brocken spectres are shadows surrounded by rainbow light that appear hauntingly in the mountains. Learn more about them below. (Wikimedia Commons)
Tara MacIsaac
4/25/2022
Updated:
5/4/2022

1. Light Pillars

It isn’t the Northern Lights, it’s a different phenomenon known as light pillars. In freezing temperatures, flat fluttering ice crystals may create a crystal fog near the ground. The crystals reflect lights from the ground up into pillar-like beams.

Light pillars over Laramie, Wyoming, USA, on a very cold January night. (Christoph Geisler/Wikimedia Commons)

2. Catatumbo River Lightning

The mouth of the Catatumbo River in Venezuela is almost constantly illuminated by lightning. The indigenous people referred to it as “River of Fire in the Sky.”

It was recently awarded the record for highest concentration of lightning in the world by Guinness World Records.
Guinness told the Huffington Post the area has almost 400 lightning flashes per square mile (250 per square kilometer) and that the lightning happens up to 300 nights per year. The lightning often starts at dusk and runs through until dawn.

3. Brocken Spectre

Human figures appear surrounded by light. Meteorologists also call them glories. It is said that it is the observer’s shadow surrounded by rainbow fringes. The amazing phenomenon is observed in high mountains.

Brocken spectre on Mount Ontake, in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. (Wikimedia Commons)

Brocken spectre on Grisedale Pike in Cumbria, England. (Andrew Smith/Wikimedia Commons)

4. Mammatus Clouds

Mammatus clouds are often indicative of a strong storm.

Mammatus clouds over the city of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, on June 26, 2012, following a severe storm warning and tornado watch. (Craig Lindsay/Wikimedia Commons)

5. Morning Glory Clouds

No one is really sure what causes this cloud formation. They can stretch more than 600 miles (1,000 kilometers), and they occur about a mile above ground. They appear all over the world, but their appearance is most predictable in Burketown, Australia every spring. The clouds can move as fast as 40 mph with almost no wind.

An aerial view of morning glory clouds near Burketown, Australia. (Mick Petroff)

6. Sun Dogs

Sun dogs are also known as mock suns or parhelia. The bright spots are created by sunlight refracted through ice crystals. Depending on how the ice crystals are oriented, an observer will see either a halo or a sun dog.

Sun dogs. (Wikimedia Commons)

7. Lenticular Clouds

Moist air forced upward around mountain tops creates lenticular clouds.

Lenticular clouds over Mount Hotaka in Japan. (Wikimedia Commons)

Lenticular clouds. (Shutterstock)

8. Fire Rainbows

Circumhorizontal arcs—known as fire rainbows—occur if the sun is high in the sky and the clouds are filled with hexagonal ice particles.

This fiery natural phenomenon typically forms in wispy cirrus clouds at high altitudes.

You can see one only if the sun is at least 57.8 degrees, or ideally 67.9 degrees, above the horizon around noon. This means you can’t see one in mid-winter, and it also means latitude is a key factor; the further north you are, the less likely you will happen to see one.