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10 Ridiculously Cool Natural Phenomenon
If someone asked you to name the two coolest things you could ever see in nature, your answer would be “volcanoes and lightning.” Or possibly “lightning and volcanoes,” I guess, but those are the only two options—it’s just a fact. But nature, it seems, is constantly looking for new ways to impress us—which is why it went ahead and made volcanic lightning a reality.And yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like—a lightning storm that takes place in the middle of a volcanic eruption. Scientists aren’t 100% sure why this happens, but the primary theory goes that when a volcano erupts, it projects positively-charged debris into the atmosphere. These charges then react with negative charges already present, which results in 1) a bolt of lightning, and 2) a really cool picture.
When the surface of the sea freezes—such as around the north and south poles—it does so in a way that forces pockets of especially cold and salty seawater to gather on the underside of the ice. This mixture of brine is denser than the seawater below it, and as a result it tends to slowly sink to the bottom. Now, because it’s so cold, the fresher water below the brine actually freezes around it as it falls, which results in a giant icicle under the surface. The technical name for this sort of thing is ‘ice stalactite,’ but what kind of boring title is that for such a breathtaking phenomenon? Hence the need for their cool nickname, ‘brinicles.’ Regular English didn’t have a good enough word, so we had to come up with a whole new one (or, more accurately, sloppily mash together two old ones).
Here’s another cool ice formation, about as far away from underwater as you can get—high in the mountains. These spiky fields of ice are called penitentes, and each individual shard can be up to a whopping 13 feet (4 meters) high. These intimidating snow structures are formed in high-altitude areas with low humidity, such as the glaciers of the Andes mountains. If the conditions are right, the sun’s rays are so hot that they can actually sublimate fields of snow—meaning that the frozen water vaporizes without ever becoming a liquid. This leads to slight pockets in the ice, which—thanks to their shape—actually end up attracting even more heat. The sharp spikes, then, are just the lucky parts of the snowfield that the sun didn’t target for complete and utter annihilation.