Today the Department of Awesome Natural Phenomena introduces us to an incredibly beautiful nighttime occurrence known as Light pillars. They’re one of nature’s rewards for enduring extremely cold weather.

Light pillars are created when ice crystals with roughly horizontal faces form in the atmosphere and reflect light from the sun, moon, or even man-made sources such as street lights.

"So, how does one explain all of the colors? As the Weather Doctor states, ‘Because the light rays forming pillars are reflected, they take on the color of the incident light. For example, when the sun is higher in the sky, pillars are white or bright yellow in color. But when it is near the horizon and its light color dominantly orange, gold or red, so is the resulting pillar.’”

Light pillars have been known to be the source of false UFO reports, which doesn’t seem at all surprising when you consider the Close Encounters-esque atmosphere in each of these wonderful photographs.

Photos by Jay Callaghan, Osato Naoya, Francis Anderson, Tristan Grezko, and Jason Ahms respectively.

Visit My Modern Metropolis to view a few more.

Thanks to the storm-chasing efforts of Phoenix, AZ-based photographer Mike Olbinski. it’s time to pay a visit Department of Awesome Natural Phenomena. Olbinski knew exactly what he was looking for, but it took him four years to find it: a monstrous rotating supercell thunderstorm.

"And not just a rotating supercell, but one with insane structure and amazing movement… Clouds that rotate and look like alien spacecraft hanging over the Earth."

This breathtaking storm was spotted near Booker, TX on June 3, 2013. Olbinski shot his mesmerizing 4-part time-lapse video using a Canon 5D Mark II camera with a Rokinon 14mm 2.8 lens. The first three parts were shot at 1-second intervals (~880 photos each) and the last was shot at 5-second intervals (90 photos).

Click here to learn more about the making of this awesome video.

The audio track is Impact Lento by Kevin MacLeod.

[via Twisted Sifter]

Winter is an exciting period for the Department of Awesome Natural Phenomena. A redditor by the name of NinjaViking took these fascinating photos of a strangely beautiful ice formation emerging from a metal pipe.

NinjaViking also explained how it happened:

“A long period of rain, then temperature slowly falling to -7°C(19°F). Water in the pipe freezing from the outside in and expanding, thus extruding water through the hole which solidifies as fast as it is exposed.”

[via Twisted Sifter]

Natural wonder + rare weather phenomenon = Super Awesome

On Friday, November 29th the Grand Canyon was completely filled by a stunning layer of fog. In some of the photos it appears as though you’re looking at the edge of the world. This awesome occurrence was the result of a temperature inversion:

An inversion happens when cold air is trapped near the surface of the earth by warmer air above. Humidity in the cooler air creates the fog. While most only fill up parts of the canyon, it’s rare to see the entire canyon enveloped in a sea of clouds.

As the Grand Canyon National Park Facebook page stated, “Rangers wait for years to see it. Word spread like wildfire and most ran to the rim to photograph it. What a fantastic treat for all!”

Photos by Erin Whittaker, the Grand Canyon National Park Facebook, and Dan Ng, Albright Training Center, NPS respectively.

Visit My Modern Metropolis to view more shots of this magnificent meteorological event.

Today the Department of Awesome Natural Phenomena brings us video of an amazing and beautiful winter wonder known as Ice Disc or Ice Circle:

An ice disc, ice circle, or ice pan is a natural phenomenon that occurs in slow moving water in cold climates. Ice circles are thin and circular slabs of ice that rotate slowly in the water. It is believed that they form in eddy currents. Ice discs form on the outer bends in a river where the accelerating water creates a force called ‘rotational shear’, which breaks off a chunk of ice and twists it around. As the disc rotates, it grinds against surrounding ice — smoothing into a circle.

The ice disc seen in this video was found in North Dakota by retired engineer George Loegering while he was hiking along the Sheyenne River. George estimates that the awesome formation was around 55 feet in diameter.

Visit Colossal to check out some beautiful photos of other ice discs and to learn more about this awesome phenomenon.

Don’t worry, that sheep isn’t lost, she’s just enjoying the view. This Awesome Natural Wonder is a boulder called the Kjeragbolten. Located in the Kjerag mountain in Rogaland, Norway, the Kjeragbolten is a 5-cubic-meter glacial deposit wedged in the mountain’s crevasse.

Found in a popular hiking area, the boulder is a spine-tingling tourist destination that’s accessible without any climbing equipment. However, because it’s suspended above a 984-meter deep abyss, we suggest that acrophobia sufferers give it a miss.

In addition to attracting both humans and livestock fond of standing (and sometimes dancing) on the rock and taking in the breathtaking scenery, it’s also a popular BASE jumping location.

1st photo by 7ty9, 2nd photo by Deeds, 3rd photo by Tijs Vrolix.

[via io9 and Atlas Obscura]

It’s time to pay another visit to the Department of Awesome Natural Phenomena where we’ll learn about the delicate beauty of Guttation:

Guttation is the exudation of drops of sap (xylem) on the tips or edges of leaves of some vascular plants, such as grasses. Guttation is not to be confused with dew, which condenses from the atmosphere onto the plant surface.

At night, transpiration usually does not occur because most plants have their stomata (pores found in the epidermis of leaves, stems and other organs that are used to control gas exchange) closed.

When there is a high soil moisture level, water will enter plant roots, because the water potential of the roots is lower than in the soil solution. The water will accumulate in the plant, creating a slight root pressure.

The root pressure forces some water to exude through special leaf tip or edge structures, hydathodes or water glands, forming drops. Root pressure (osmotic pressure within the cells of a root system that causes sap to rise through a plant stem to the leaves) provides the impetus for this flow, rather than transpirational pull. [Source: Wikipedia]

These photos are all beautiful examples of Guttation. In order of appearance they were taken by Luc Viatour (, Ruth Jensen, Ursula Roseeu, Dohduhdah, AlexRK, and John Petranka.

Visit Twisted Sifter to view even more examples of this awesome natural phenomenon.

From the Department of Awesome Natural Wonders comes this impressive geological formation - an enormous rock perfectly balanced atop a smooth mound. Located deep inside the forests of Finland, the balancing rock is called Kummakivi:

"There is still no scientific explanation for how the rock, whose given name translates as ‘strange rock’ in Finnish, has wound up in such a perplexing position."

However it happened, it’s a pretty awesome sight. But we don’t recommend standing under it for too long.

[via My Modern Metropolis]

From the Department of Awesome Natural Wonders come these mysterious patterns on the ocean floor off the southern coast of Japan. Japanese scuba diver and photographer Yoji Ookata, who has spent the last 50 years exploring and documenting his underwater discoveries off the coast of Japan, spotted these beautiful and puzzling patterns in the sand, nearly six feet in diameter and 80 feet below sea level, during a dive near Amami Oshima at the southern tip of the country.

So what happened next? Are these rippling geometric patterns the equivalent of crop circles on the seafloor? Not quite, but the answer is still a good one. Colossal explains:

“He soon returned with colleagues and a television crew from the nature program NHK to document the origins what he dubbed the “mystery circle.”

Using underwater cameras the team discovered the artist is a small puffer fish only a few inches in length that swims tirelessly through the day and night to create these vast organic sculptures using the gesture of a single fin. Through careful observation the team found the circles serve a variety of crucial ecological functions, the most important of which is to attract mates. Apparently the female fish are attracted to the hills and valleys within the sand and traverse them carefully to discover the male fish where the pair eventually lay eggs at the circle’s center, the grooves later acting as a natural buffer to ocean currents that protect the delicate offspring. Scientists also learned that the more ridges contained within the sculpture resulted in a much greater likelihood of the fish pairing. To learn more about the circles check out the full scoop over on Spoon and Tamago, and you can see two high resolution desktop photos courtesy of NHK here.”

Busy little pufferfish boys wooing potential mates by sculpting the sand with their bodies. As far as we’re concerned, that’s pretty awesome!

[via Colossal]

The 2nd most popular Geyser of Awesome post of 2012 looks like it was made by a talented and adventurous artist, but it’s really a talented and patient puffer fish. 

(via archiemcphee)

Reblogged from archiemcphee