Quora: What are some of the best rare natural phenomena that occur on Earth?

Some very interesting visuals for sure

Answer by Mayank Singh Shishodia:

Here are some of the best natural phenomena that occur on Earth.

Gippsland Lakes

The spooky light is created by a chemical reaction called “bioluminescence”, which happens when tiny organisms in the water are disturbed. The photographer put his camera on a very slow shutter speed and threw sand and stones into the water to cause the reaction and capture as much of the blue haze as possible
Source: Bioluminescence in the Gippsland Lakes


Light Poles

This phenomenon is known as ‘light poles’ and it can be seen at nights ower the large cities with different colored lights. They can only be seen during very cold weather (the temperature of -20 Celsius degrees or lower is required). Also the wind must not blow fast and there has to be a plenty of tiny ice crystals in the atmosphere. That is why you don’t see this so often.
Source: http://www.babaloud.com/2011/06/…

Finnish Lapland

The picture was taken last winter in Finnish Lapland where weather can include sub-freezing temperatures and driving snow. Surreal landscapes sometimes result, where common trees become cloaked in white and so appear, to some, as watchful aliens or bizarre statues. Image Credit & Copyright: Niccolò Bonfadini
Source: APOD: 2012 May 29

Lenticular Clouds

They are stationary lens-shaped and sometimes multilayered clouds that form at high altitudes. They are formed when moist air is forced to flow upward around mountain tops. Due to their shape, they have been offered as an explanation for some UFO sightings.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Len…


Aurora or polar light are mesmerizing natural light display in the skies of high latitude regions. They are caused when energetic electrically charged particles from solar wind accelerate along the magnetic field lines into the upper atmosphere, where they collide with gas atoms, causing the atoms to give off light. The auroral zone is typically 10° to 20° from the magnetic poles.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aur…


A fallstreak hole, also known as a hole punch cloud, punch hole cloud,skypunch, canal cloud or cloud hole, is a large circular or elliptical gap, that can appear in cirrocumulous or altocumulous clouds. Such holes are formed when the water temperature in the clouds is below freezing but the water has not frozen yet due to the lack of icenucleation particles. When ice crystals do form it will set off a domino effect, due to the Bergeon process, causing the water droplets around the crystals to evaporate: this leaves a large, often circular, hole in the cloud
Source: Fallstreak hole


Morning Glory Clouds

Morning Glory clouds are very rare types of clouds. They can stretch 1,000 kilometers long and occur at altitudes of up to 2 km. Although similar clouds are seen in many places worldwide, the ones over Burketown, Queensland in Australia occur predictably every spring. These tubes and the surrounding air can cause dangerous turbulence for airplanes when clear. They can achieve wind speeds up to 60 kmph.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mor…

Condo Effect Fog

This photo was taken in Panama City, Florida. Fog is seen rising off the Gulf and over the buildings along the beach, giving it a tsunami effect. According to a meteorologist this was due to “highly localized orographic lifting.” The fog formed in spots where the onshore breeze was forced to rise up and over the tall buildings. The ascending air cooled and the water vapor condensed, forming fog.
Source: http://theweatherguru.com/2012/0…
Spectacular ‘cloud tsunami’ rolls over Florida high-rise condos

The Brocken spectre

Brocken spectre, also known as Brocken bow or mountain spectre, it is the apparently enormous and magnified shadow of an observer or object, cast upon the upper surfaces of clouds opposite the sun. The ‘head’ or point of the shadow is often surrounded by rings of coloured light – the rainbow halo – caused by light diffraction.
Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/…
Brocken spectre

Fire Rainbows

The fire rainbow is the rarest of all naturally occurring phenomena. The clouds must be cirrus and at an altitude of 20,000 feet at least. There must be just the right amount of ice crystals present, as well.
Source: Circumhorizontal arc

The Hessdalen Light

Hessdalen Light is an unexplained light phenomenon that occurs in Hessdalen valley of Norway. They were observed over 15 to 20 times per week from 1982 until 1984. Since then, the activity has decreased and now the lights are observed about 10 to 20 times per year.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hes…


Upward Lightning

Upward lightning is rare. Most lightning streams either between clouds or from a cloud to the ground. In this special case, electrons stream earthward, producing an electrical current and a bright streak of light like a tree branching out.
Source: Upward Lightning , http://www.sciencedaily.com/rele…

Mammatus Clouds

Mammatus clouds or mammatocumulus are cellular pattern of pouches hanging underneath the base of a cloud. They are formed in sinking air contrary to any other form of clouds that are formed in rising air. There are various hypotheses offered behind the mechanism of its formation.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mam…

Earthquake Lights

Earthquake lights are unusual luminous atmospheric phenomenon. They are usually reportedly in areas of high seismic activity or volcanic eruptions. They were believed to be myths until they were photographed in 1965 during the Matsushiro earthquake of Japan. It was then that seismologists worldwide accepted of their existence. Earthquake lights are caused by an unknown mechanism. They are either white, blue or multi-spectrum.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ear…


Blue Jets and Red Sprites

Red sprites and blue jets are very high altitude upper atmospheric phenomena associated with thunderstorms. They have only recently been documented on camera. Red sprites are massive (as big as 20 km in size), but faint luminous flashes that appear directly above an active thunderstorm and coincide with powerful lightning strikes. Blue jets too are a high altitude optical phenomenon, but are different from sprites. They were first documented in 1994. Blue jets are optical ejections from the top of the core regions of electrically active thunderstorms, but are not directly associated with ground lightning strikes.
Source: Upper-atmospheric lightning

Ball Lightning

“Ball lightning is an unexplained atmospheric electrical phenomenon. The term refers to reports of luminous, usually spherical objects which vary from pea-sized to several meters in diameter. It is usually associated with thunderstorms, but lasts considerably longer than the split-second flash of a lightning bolt. Many of the early reports say that the ball eventually explodes, sometimes with fatal consequences, leaving behind the odor of sulfur.”
Source: Ball lightning

Austria’s Green Lake

A park that becomes a lake for the summer
Source: Rest your weary sea legs: Divers explore pristine alpine park that turns into a lake for half the year

Fire Whirls

The fire whirls, fire devil or fire tornado, is a rare natural phenomenon. It occurs when a fire, combined by certain air temperature and currents, forms a whirl that rises into the air like a tornado. They can be actual whirlwinds that disengage from the flames, or else can become a vortex of flame. The fire whirl usually occurs during bush fires.
Source: Fire whirl

Sun Dogs

The natural phenomena commonly known as sun dogs has beguiled philosophical greats from Aristotle all the way to Descartes. It was the sun dog sighting, after all, that caused Descartes to take a break from his metaphysical studies and write his book on natural philosophy aptly called “The World”.
Source: Sun dog

Catatumbo Lightning

The Catatumbo Lighting occurs on the mouth of the Catatumbo River at Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela. It is an atmospheric delight, which creates incessant, powerful flashes of lightning. The phenomenon occurs because of a mass of storm clouds that form a voltage arc more than three miles high.
Source: Catatumbo lightning

The Blue Tunnel, Antarctica

5 m high 150 m long ice tunnel formed by melt water and pressure ridges on the ice shelf near the Schirmacher Oasis. The Schirmacher Oasis (also Schirmacher Lake Plateau) is a 25 km long and up to 3 km wide ice-free plateau with more than 100 fresh water lakes. It is situated in the Schirmacher Hills on the Princess Astrid Coast in Queen Maud Land in East Antarctica, and is on average 100 metres above sea level. With an area of 34 km², the Schirmacher Oasis ranks among the smallest Antarctic oases and is a typical polar desert.
Source: The Blue Tunnel, Antarctica

Rare Algae bloom turns water near Sydney’s Bondi Beach blood red

The natural phenomenon is caused when algae, a plant-like organism flourishes and large groups of the miniscule plants, which can appear in various colours, gather together often with spectacular results.
Source: Crimson tides: Tourists flee from Bondi Beach ‘Red Sea’ as rare algae bloom turns water the colour of blood

Red Rain in Kerala

On July 21, 2001, there was a meteor airburst event near Changanacherry in the Kottayam district. Many people recall the loud sonic boom during early morning of that day. Just a few hours later, rain the color of blood began to fall. For two months, red rain fell sporadically around the state of Kerala in southern India. Scientists first attributed the strange crimson rain to particles swept from the desert or other dust-like material that was carried off by winds and then was dispersed during precipitation.
Source: http://sciencehistorylover.wordp…

Naga Fireballs (Not sure whether Naga Fireballs are natural or not. Many people say that they are tracer bullets fired by soldiers; this possible explanation has also been provided in the Wikipedia article of Naga fireball). But there’s also an alternate explanation involving spontaneous ignition of gasses from the river. So I have added Naga Fireballs to the answer.

The Naga fireballs are an unexplained phenomenon witnessed along the Mekong River, in Thailand and Laos. They refer to the glowing, reddish balls, which vary in size and rise from the water into the air, before disappearing. The bizarre event takes place every October during the full moon. It is estimated between tens and thousands of fireballs shoot from the river, some reaching a hundred meters in height. Though many scientists have attempted to explain the phenomenon (commonly as a spontaneous ignition of gases from the river), there is no substantial evidence to back their theories. Instead, the legend by locals – involving a river-haunting serpent, Naga, who shoots fireballs to celebrate the end of Buddhist lent – is given more credence. An annual festival is held to celebrate the Naga fireballs.
Source: Naga fireball

Bonus Content:

I didn’t include an image for this as it might be a bit ‘scary’ for some people 🙂 Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) refers to when a person bursts into flame for no apparent reason and burns down into charcoal. Interestingly, the confusion isn’t really about how this happens–scientists have a provable method in something called the Wick Effect, which has been successfully demonstrated on pigs. It shows that if someone a bit lardy catches on fire, their skin and clothing act like the wick of a candle, collecting fat as it melts and allowing it to burn at a constant high temperature for an extended period in a localized area.