Our Earth is full of wondrous beauty. Many events occur everyday that leave us guessing, and simultaneously keep us interested anyway. A lot of things that happen in the world are due to actions by us, the inhabitants, but Mother Nature has also shown us that she has her own side full of mostly bizarre, sometimes unexplainable, but entirely fascinating power. From methane bubbles under a frozen lake, to naturally multicolored trees in the southwest region of the Pacific, to sun pillars throughout the world – our planet is full of amazing natural phenomena.
Naturally Occurring, But Easily Explained
Many things that happen in nature are easily explained by simple research and data, though this doesn’t make them any less wonderful to witness.
Sun pillars happen due to the sun reflecting off the frozen clouds high in the atmosphere. This reflection creates a “pillar” of sunlight that seems to be shining down on a certain area below, very similar to the way a camera flash reflects off a mirror. Knowing if these clouds were just a few degrees warmer makes this fascinating natural incident much more spellbinding.
There are also lakes in regions of Scandinavia, Canada, and Alaska in which small bubbles of methane freeze under the ice. These bubbles, known as “ice jellyfish” or “blue blobs,” are made of methane collected from leaves and dead animals that fall into the lakes. The methane rises, but freezes before it can reach the surface due to the frozen water on top. This process doesn’t completely stop the bubbles from rising, but slows them down drastically. Once they finally reach the surface, these bubbles, ranging from pea-size to multiple meters in diameter, burst and the gas is released into the air.
Another common, and more easily explained, occurrence is the red waterfall known as Blood Falls in Antarctica. Geomicrobiologist Jill Mikucki from University of Tennessee, Knoxville published her own explanation for this anomaly almost 8 years ago, and it seems to be the closest to a real explanation we will get anytime soon. Due to iron oxide in the salty groundwater under glaciers, there is a blood red flow coming from what Mikucki calls “a portal to this subglacial word.” By getting a better understanding of Blood Falls, we are able to further investigate the environments under the surface that inhabit the microbes that cause events like this to happen.
While many things can be explained, there is still much more out there left to justify – some of which we haven’t even begun to discover yet. For example, there have been instances of a phenomenon known as ‘ball lightning.’ If you’ve ever walked across carpet with socks on and been shocked by a doorknob, you’ve witnessed static electricity. Lightning is like your socks on steroids – super steroids. With three times the heat of the sun, lightning is nothing to play with. According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, lightning could power a 100-watt bulb for 3 months easily. ‘Ball lightning’ is the term used for what people have claimed to witnessed as a ball of lightning hovering the ground, moving through walls, and even being fatal at times. Lightning has always been fascinating, but I’m in no rush to witness a floating ball of it (which is probably why we don’t have much data on the topic yet).
Eye of the Sahara
The Richat Structure, also known as the Eye of the Sahara, is a huge circular formation located in Mauritania, a part of North Africa’s Maghreb region. The structure, originally thought to have been a crater, is so large and flat that you cannot witness it by visiting its location – even though it’s 25 miles in diameter. Imagine a two-dimensional version of the Grand Canyon. You can, however, see the Eye of the Sahara on Google Maps and in other renderings by scientists and artists. Although there is still no certain explanation for this massive beautiful circle, two Canadian scientists have come up with their own explanation. This includes a theory of erosion from different levels and the presence of several kinds of rock in the region.