Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Weird Nature The Most Rare Atmospheric Phenomena on Earth  

236 votes 52 voters 1.2k views

There is a long history of man looking up into the sky and seeing something so strange that the only option was to declare it extraterrestrial. Who knows how many stories these weather anomalies spawned? Green glowing lights dancing on the horizon, iridescent glowing night clouds, sparkling moon-rainbows and odd, colorful halos in the mist. Water and light and wind can playfully mix together all kinds of beautiful, magical creations.

Which of these rare atmospheric anomalies have you seen?

Thundersnow is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Rare Atmospheric Phenomena on Earth
Photo: Wikipedia
1 18 VOTES


This unusual weather event is thermodynamically identical to a normal thunderstorm, but with snow instead of rain and the top of the thunderhead cloud low. As with a normal thunderstorm, hail may also fall. Thundersnow is often a part of a severe winter storm or blizzard with winds capable of being above tropical storm force. As a result, visibilities are frequently under 1⁄4 mile with extreme wind chills that can result in frostbite. There is also a greater likelihood that thundersnow lightning will have a positive polarity, which is associated with a greater destructive potential than the more common negatively-charged lightning.

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Fire Rainbow is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Rare Atmospheric Phenomena on Earth
Photo:  Nbarr at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons
2 20 VOTES

Fire Rainbow

The real name for this rare weather phenomenon is a circumhorizontal arc. These are caused by light passing through wispy, high-altitude cirrus clouds. They can occur only when the sun is very high - more than 58° above the horizon - in the sky and along the mid-latitudes in the summertime. In order for the conditions to be right, the hexagonal ice crystals that make up these cirrus clouds must be shaped like thick plates with their faces parallel to the ground. When light passes through, it refracts, or bends, in the same way that light passes through a prism. If all the crystals are lined up just right, the whole thing lights up like a rainbow.

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Noctilucent Clouds is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Rare Atmospheric Phenomena on Earth
Photo:  Space Exploration Technologies Corporation
3 24 VOTES

Noctilucent Clouds

Also known as night clouds, noctilucent clouds - if you see them at all - form in the summer months at latitudes between 50° and 70° north and south of the equator. The Sun has to be below the horizon, but while the clouds are still in sunlight. They are the highest clouds in Earth's atmosphere, located in the mesosphere between 47 to 53 miles up. They are too faint to be seen during daylight. Regular clouds in the lower atmosphere form when water collects on particles, but these mesospheric clouds seem to form directly from water vapour and dust particles. The occurrence of noctilucent clouds appears to be increasing in frequency, brightness and extent.

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Sun Dog is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Rare Atmospheric Phenomena on Earth
Photo:  Gopherboy6956
4 16 VOTES

Sun Dog

Also called a 'mock sun', the sun dog is a concentrated patch of sunlight that often forms in pairs 22° to the left or right on either side of the sun when conditions are right. They are basically a kind of halo similar to the circumzenithal arc. When high and cold cirrus or cirrostratus clouds contain plate-shaped ice crystals - these crystals act as prisms, bending the light rays passing through them with a minimum deflection of 22°. As the crystals gently float downwards with their large hexagonal faces almost horizontal, sunlight is refracted horizontally, and sun dogs are seen to the left and right of the Sun. Larger crystals wobble more, and thus produce taller sundogs. They tend to be red-colored at the side nearest the Sun; farther out the colors grade through oranges to blue. However, the colors overlap considerably and so are muted, never pure or saturated.

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