Note: Video contains some minor profanity.
A rare “Crown Flash” was captured on camera by a cyclist a few days ago, and he uploaded his findings on YouTube.
“I was out riding my bicycle and a storm was approaching, then this strange light caught my eye so I pulled out my phone and shot this video,” the YouTube uploader writes. “After getting so many replies saying it wasn’t haarp (sic) I’m changing the name to, Crown Flash, a Crown Flash is when ice particles get aligned in the same direction from the electromagnetic field created during a thunderstorm. It’s usually invisible to the naked eye but the way the sun hits it, it makes it visible to the naked eye kind of like a rainbow.”
Here’s another instance captured on video:
The “Crown Flash” is also known as “Leaping Sundog.”
They’re apparently rare. According to a 1971 Nature article, “ON July 2, 1970, at about 1945 h EST a thunderstorm cell passed a few miles north of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The column of cumulus cloud towered in the light of the setting Sun, far above the dark mass below, which occasionally flickered with lightning.”
Here’s another one:
The first description of a crown flash, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, was in 1885.
“An extremely rare meteorological phenomenon, crown flash, was first scientifically described in the journal Monthly Weather Review in 1885. It can occur at the top of thunderstorms and appears as a bright patch of sky not dissimilar to a sundog. Unlike a typical sundog, however, these features move and realign within seconds, forming beams and loops of light. The most likely explanation is that crown flash is caused by changing electrical fields within the thundercloud, to which plate- or needle-shaped ice crystals align, preferentially reflecting sunlight,” says the website.
It noted that due to the presence of readily available smartphones, they are now several examples of the phenomenon.
“But as electrical charges build in the cloud ahead of a flash of lightning, the crystals all spin into alignment, under the influence of a much stronger, electrostatic field force. This is what creates the bend-y pillar of light in the cloud. Then when the charge (and the electrostatic field) is relaxed by lightning, the ice crystals fall back into relative disarray, and the pillar of light collapses,” says the Washington Post.
Meanwhile, last year, a large crown flash was spotted near Kansas City, Missouri.
“It looks like somebody up there was looking for something in those clouds, with a flashlight. One of the creepiest crown flashes I have seen, and we all seen crazy things in the sky but this tops it off, it looked alive like it was breathing,” one person wrote on a forum about what they saw.