From underwater crop circles to flowering deserts, the world is a large and mysterious place. It’s also a place where a lot of natural phenomena occurs, some so strange and inexplicable that you’ll find it hard to believe that such wonder actually exists anywhere. This post will take a look at 30 of the most beautiful, yet strange, natural phenomena that occur on planet Earth.
1. Thunderstorms From Hell
OK, so not really, but these “dirty thunderstorms” look sort of like the end of times. In reality, these storms are just volcanic lighting, and the phenomena occurs when lighting strikes within a volcanic plume. Though these types of thunderstorms are very rare, the images are striking. Just Google the Chile volcanic eruption in 2008 to see for yourself.
2. The Gates to Hell
We don’t mean to continue the whole “hell” theme here, but the closest thing that resembles the actual doorway to hell may actually exist in this world. Specifically, it’s in the nation of Turkmenistan, and manifested in the early 1970s when a gas field collapsed into an underground cavern. In order to prevent the spread of methane gas, the cavern was set on fire. About the size of a football field, the crater still burns today, making for a popular tourist attraction.
3. Got Crabs?
Christmas Island does. Located in the Indian Ocean, this island is home to millions and millions of red crabs. And every wet season, these crabs migrate from their forest homes to the beach to reproduce. There are so many crabs making the migration that officials close down the island roads for the week it takes them to do it. If you want to check out the migrating crabs, however, we advise you to do it soon. Once home to some 43 million crabs, it’s estimated that their population has declined by as many as 15 million recently thanks to an accidental introduction of an invasive species.
4. Fairy Circles
Found in the Namib desert, nobody is still quite sure what causes these unique circles, though there are a few theories. One is that the sand termite is responsible for their creation. Another is that the scarcity of water has led plants to join together in the fight for it. And then there are more mythical thoughts, such as that they’re “footprints of the Gods” or formed by dragon breath.
5. Sailing Stones
This phenomenon occurs in Death Valley and is described by rocks and stones moving along the desert floor without any type of human or animal help. Also known as “rolling rocks” or “sliding rocks,” they leave track marks and occur when a combination of several conditions are present.
6. Tidal Bores
Surf’s up! These bores, which occur when incoming river tide forms a wave that travels against the flow of water, are common in various points throughout the world. So grab your surfboard and take advantage of the tidal phenomenon.
7. Flowers… in the Desert
“Flowers” and “desert” aren’t normally synonymous – except when there’s excess rainfall in Chile’s Atacama Desert. When this occurs, vegetation blossoms and flowers grow in masses.
8. Fire Rainbows
Formally known as circumhorizontal arcs, these rainbows are rare, but beautiful. They’re actually not fire or a rainbow, but a special optical phenomenon that occurs when conditions are just right.
9. UFO Clouds
Every now and then, massive lenticular clouds form over Mount Olympus. They resemble a massive UFO, which is why scientists explain many UFO sightings as being these lenticular clouds.
10. Mammary Clouds
Continuing with the cloud theme, these types of clouds are described by their patterns of pouches that hang underneath. For this feature, they’re also commonly known as “breast clouds.”
11. Iridescent Clouds
Formally known as “polar stratospheric clouds,” this is another great sight to see in the winter polar stratosphere.
12. Wave Clouds
The sky looks rough today! Rounding out the cloud theme, these types of clouds are a more recent discovery and are characterized by their resemblance to waves.
13. The Great Flamingo Breeding Grounds
Specifically, this is Lake Natron in Tanzania, a lake fed by hot springs. It’s also the most popular breeding grounds for East African flamingos.
14. Spotted Lake
Want to know where to find the largest quantity of calcium, magnesium sulfate and sodium phosphate? Why that would be Canada’s Spotted Lake.
15. Light Waves
Glowing waves? Yep, it’s a reality in the Maldives when a special type of plankton wash ashore via the tides.
16. Blood Tide
No, the end of days is not washing up on the beach – it’s a special phenomenon where water takes on a reddish color during the right conditions. It might look like something out of a Stephen King book, but it’s nothing to get too concerned about.
17. Light Pillars
In certain areas of the world, ice crystals exist in the Earth’s atmosphere. When sunlight or moonlight reflects off of these crystals, it creates these light pillars in the nighttime sky. These pillars are usually vertical in shape, which has led them to be mistaken for many UFO sightings.
18. Rainbow Gum
Rainbow colored gum really isn’t that exciting, but the rainbow eucalyptus – which is also known as rainbow gum – is. Specifically, this occurs when tree bark sheds and the underlying bark changes different colors.
19. Flower Ice Crystals
When it’s very, very cold, ice crystals have a tendency to form on the sea and on lakes. Many of these ice crystals in extremely cold temperatures often take a flower shape.
20. The World’s Strongest Tidal Whirlpool
Whirlpools are as deadly as they are remarkable. And that’s part of the reason why the world’s most powerful tidal whirlpool, located in the Norwegian Sea, is so cool. Just don’t get too close to it.
21. Underwater Crop Circles
While many USO (unidentified submerged object) enthusiasts would love to believe that these crop circles often found off the coast of Japan have something to do with mysterious crafts, they’re actually just a phenomenon on the ocean floor created by the puffer fish. Specifically, they’re created so the puffer fish can woo his mates.
22. New Zealand Spherical Boulders
Many of the Lord of Rings movies were filmed in New Zealand – and these spherical boulders, which are formed via mud and coastal erosion, look like they would fit perfectly in the world of Gandalf and Frodo. The boulders are large, unique and a popular tourist attraction for those who come to visit.
23. The Great Blue Hole
It’s more than 300 meters deep and about 125 meters wide. We’re talking about the massive submarine sinkhole off the coast of Belize, a phenomenon that’s been come to be known as the “Great Blue Hole.” Today, it’s a popular tourist attractions, particularly for divers, as many species of fish and shark can be observed in the waters.
About the closest thing you’ll ever see to a black sun are the tens of thousands of starling birds that form in the U.K. around sunset in the winter time. Of course, these 50,000-plus starlings that make up these swarms aren’t always in a sun formation – and that’s a part of what makes seeing them so cool.
25. The Great Sardine Run
This occurs along the coast of South Africa from May through July, as billions and billions of sardines travel north. Not only is it remarkable to see the sardine run in action, but it’s also cool to check out the predators that flock to the area to feed on them – notably, dolphins, sharks, whales and birds.
26. Giant’s Causeway
One of the most visited attractions in Northern Ireland is the Giant’s Causeway, an area where there’s about 40,000 interlocking columns. The phenomenon is believed to have been formed when a volcano erupted in ancient times.
27. Monarch Migration
Red crabs aren’t the only cool migration to make this list – Monarch butterflies also migrate every summer, traveling thousands of miles from the United States and Canada to Mexico. What’s really neat to know about this migration, however, is that no one butterfly actually makes it the whole way – the females lay eggs and their offspring finish the journey.
28. Feel Like Walking in a Spider Web?
You would have been able to do it – literally – back in 2012 when floodwaters forced some 13,000 people out of their homes in Wagga Wagga, Australia. But people weren’t the only ones that fled the floodwaters – spiders fled too. And these spiders made their presence known in the dry fields outside of Wagga Wagga as they built massive webs.
29. Catatumbo Lightning
If you’re at all freaked out by thunderstorms, stay the heck away from the mouth of the Catatumbo River in Venezuela. That’s because for up to 260 days per year, lightning strikes over this area of the world for up to 10 hours per day and up to 280 times per hour.
30. Ice Bubbles on Fire
When there’s ice, there’s fire…? That’s not usually how it works, but that’s kind of how things once played out in Lake Abraham, which is located in the Canadian province of Alberta. Specifically, there are frozen methane gas bubbles in the ice, which look really cool, but you don’t want to be igniting a lighter or striking a match around any of these gas bubbles if they’re popped.