10 Amazing & Rare Natural Phenomena

This natural phenomena list chronicles some of the most stunning, and rare, occurrences in nature (with photos). The natural world is packed to the brim with amazing life forms and spectacular accomplishments, but there are some things that just stand out. Mostly because they are so rare and unusual.

What are some natural phenomenons that occur in nature? Some of the examples on this list have yet to be fully understood, and others have been well documented throughout history... but one thing is for certain, if you witness even one of these amazing and rare occurrences in your lifetime, consider yourself lucky.

  • Rogue Wave

    Rogue waves (also known as freak waves, monster waves, killer waves, extreme waves, and abnormal waves) are large and dangerous surface waves that occur far out to sea. These are not tsunamis, but instead seem to form from a variety of possible causes.

    There are three types of rogue waves, the "Wall of Water", the "Three Sisters" and single, giant storm waves that can collapse within moments of their formation. These waves seem to occur in deep water or where a number of physical factors converge and can cause a number of waves to join together.
  • Algal Bloom

    Algal blooms are a natural phenomenon, the occurrence of which may be increased by nutrient pollution. Algae can multiply quickly in waterways with an overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus, particularly when the water is warm and the weather is calm. This proliferation causes "blooms" of algae that turn the water green, orange or red. 

     The ones that most folks take note of, of course, are the ones that turn the ocean to blood. Or, you know, "red tide", even though it has nothing to do with the tide. This is known as one of the 'harmful blooms', although not only the red and brown algea are harmful. These HABs can produce neurotoxins (which affect the nervous system) and hepatotoxins (which affect the liver). These toxins can potentially impact the health of people who come into contact with water where HABs are present in high numbers.

    Even though these blooms have been around since before biblical times, there has been increased public awareness of the negative impacts of these blooms to marine resources -- such as strandings and deaths of marine mammals, birds, and sea turtles. In addition, scientists have determined that there are more toxic algal species, algal toxins, affected fisheries resources, food-web disruption, and economic losses from harmful algal blooms than ever before.

  • Ice Circles

    Ice Circles
    Photo: Nicolas Perrault II / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0
    That ice circles and discs form is no mystery, but how they form is still a little up in the air. Ice circles are thin, circular slabs of ice that rotate slowly in the water. It is believed that they form in eddy currents, but some new theories involving rising methane have been brought forward in Russia.
  • Penitentes

    Penitentes are a snow formation found only at high altitudes. They take the form of tall thin blades of hardened snow or ice closely spaced and pointing in the general direction of the sun. Penitentes can be as tall as a person.

    The key climatic condition that leads to the formation of penitentes is that dew point is always below freezing. Thus, snow will sublimate, because sublimation requires a higher energy input than melting. The surface geometry of the growing penitente produces a positive feedback mechanism, and radiation is trapped by multiple reflections between the walls of the points. The hollows become almost a black body for radiation, while decreased wind leads to air saturation, increasing dew point temperature and the onset of melting.

    In this way peaks and walls remain, which intercept only a minimum of solar radiation and in the spaces between, ablation is enhanced, leading to a downward growth of penitentes. A mathematical model of the process has been developed, but the initial stage of penitente growth, from granular snow to the birth of a new penitente, still remains unclear.