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Volcanic lightning

Volcanic lightning
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Thunderstorm lightning has nothing on volcanic lightning which appears during a volcano explosion. This lightning forms in the volcanic plume – the cylinder-shaped column of volcanic ash – after it erupts, according to National Geographic. The particles that make up the plume compress underground. Once these particles eject above ground the density changes. Plus, the friction between particles charges them. They separate as they go up, creating space for electricity or lightning to flow between particles, per National Geographic.

Blood falls

Blood falls
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In Antarctica, the famous Blood Falls – a blood-red waterfall pouring out of the Taylor Glacier, are found in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Scientists and geologists first thought that the water was the colour red because of algae, according to Atlas Obscura. Research by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, however, found the red colour is thanks to oxidised iron in the brine saltwater. We see the falls thanks to a fissure allowing the water to flow from the small, trapped body.

Frozen lake bubbles

Frozen lake bubbles
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Lake Abraham in Alberta, Canada, features some beautiful frozen, trapped, bubbles of methane. Methane bubbles form in water when bacteria feasts on leaves and animals in the water. The bacteria eat the matter and ‘poops’ out methane, which turn into floating bubbles in frozen water, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Salt flats

Salt flats
MARIAN DREHER/SHUTTERSTOCK

There are some well-known and beautiful salt flats, also known as salt lakes in Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and Victoria. No matter their location, salt flats are all thanks to the evaporation of water and the concentration and precipitation of salts and other minerals dissolved in it, according to the New York Times. They can differ in their water source which could be a lake, groundwater, or one of many other water sources.

Glow-worm caves

Glow-worm caves
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Even worms, although small and slimy, are a natural phenomenon – especially glow-worms and their caves. Most of these caves are in New Zealand and Australia. The Waitomo Caves in New Zealand are the most well-known, having formed more than 30 million years ago. The science behind the glow-worm caves is interesting. In fact, they technically aren’t ‘glowing worms’ at all. According to the New York Times, fungus gnat eggs hatch, their larva constructing mucus. That mucus coughs up silk strings collecting droplets of more mucus. This is the net that illuminates and attracts flies or other victims for the worms.

Rainbow eucalyptus trees

Rainbow eucalyptus trees

Rainbow eucalyptus or rainbow gum trees hails from the Philippines and Indonesia. The colourful tree stripes are actually strips of old and new bark. As the thin bark layers peel away, they reveal younger ones with brighter colours. The youngest bark is green then purple, red and brown as the tree ages and loses chlorophyll. Eventually, the bark becomes totally brown again before repeating the shedding cycle, according to nature.com.

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Travertine terraces

Travertine terraces
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Travertine forms as a result of calcium carbonate precipitation from geothermal waters, according to New Zealand’s University of Waikato. The travertine builds up forming terraces over time. When hot water full of carbon dioxide flows through limestone, it dissolves. It carries calcium carbonate to the surface of the travertine, per Atlas Obscura. Still, more research shows there might be other reasons for their formation. Bacteria in the water could catalyse the minerals, forming the terraces, according to Science Magazine.

Sandstone waves

Sandstone waves
SEAN XU/SHUTTERSTOCK

These sandstone waves were originally dunes in Arizona, USA. Dating back more than 190 million years, the ‘waves’ are made up of intersecting troughs of sandstone turned to rock. According to Atlas Obscura, the dunes form vertically and horizontally, and slow erosion, thanks to wind and rain over time, reveals their wave-like look. Sandstone waves are a must for avid hikers in the American Southwest.

Desert roses

Desert roses
KNORRE/SHUTTERSTOCK

Desert roses are a special crystal group formed by rain or flooding in desert regions where there are trapped sand particles. Switching between wet and dry conditions forms the crystals while trapping grains of sand. Although most form from gypsum, baryte and celestite roses exist, too.

Nacreous clouds

Nacreous clouds
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Nacreous clouds look like light waves of various colours. They are rare since they’re only visible within two hours after sunset or before dawn. However, they’re more common during winter time in places with high altitudes, like in Antarctica, Scandinavia, Iceland and Canada.

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