Lenticular Clouds, Skyquakes, Heat Bursts, Thundersnow, Superstorms, Blood Rain, Red Sprites, and the Hessdalen Lights
People have been talking about discs that come down from the heavens for a long, long time. A few generations ago, this began to include “UFO sightings” which were often nothing more than references to lenticular clouds in the sky. Of course, there are those who want to believe in aliens so badly that they convince themselves that ball lightning or lenticular clouds are evidence of UFOs. Still, these are indeed otherworldly seeming, but very much ordinary natural objects. There is nothing supernatural or extraterrestrial about these rather unusual formations at all. Sometimes, there’s even a brightly-colored iridescence along the edge of lenticular clouds, but it’s perfectly normal. These are just peculiar stationary tropospheric formations, typically in perpendicular alignment with the direction of the wind, occasionally forming into stacks.
In line with this, there are three main types of lenticular clouds, namely altocumulus standing lenticular (ACSL), stratocumulus standing lenticular (SCSL), and cirrocumulus standing lenticular (CCSL), varying in their altitude above the ground. They’re just really cool clouds and that’s it.
Skyquakes are part of a wide range of phenomena that results from a number of different factors that often sound like cannon fire in the distance. They occur around the world, in Japan, Ireland, Australia, Italy, and have been heard on the banks of the Ganges in India, and in the Magic Valley of the United States. The thing is that sometimes it’s difficult explaining where the noise came from. Here in America, we call the sounds the “Guns of Seneca” around Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake, but they are known in Connecticut valley as the Moodus noises. In Bangladesh these are called the “Barisal Guns”, again alluding to something like cannon fire or bomb blasts. However, in Japan, “uminari” means cries from the sea, which paints a very different picture. Do they all refer to the same kind of phenomenon, or are there different sounds caused by different things? Either way, at least some of this seems to be associated with the weather. The sound is often described as being like distant but inordinately loud thunder, but there are never clouds in the sky large enough to generate lightning. Plus, the sonic booms occasionally even cause shock waves, like jets flying at Mach 1.
So, what could this be? Well, early European settlers in North America were told by the native Iroquois that the noise was the sound that the Great Spirit makes as he shapes the world. Granted that’s a beautiful sentiment, but an unlikely cause. A far more likely explanation is that the noise is very distant thunder which is somehow focused anomalously as it travels through the upper atmosphere. Still, no one really knows for sure though, but again I doubt that it’s the sound of the Grand Architect doing masonry work, or anything of the sort.
A heat burst is a rare atmospheric phenomenon characterized by gusty winds along with a rapid increase in temperature and decrease in moisture. Heat bursts are characterized by extremely dry air and are sometimes associated with very strong, even damaging, winds. Heat bursts typically occur during the night and are associated with thunderstorms. Although this phenomenon is not fully understood, it’s theorized that the event is caused when rain evaporates into a parcel of cold, dry air high in the atmosphere, making the air denser than its surroundings. The parcel then descends rapidly, warming due to compression, overshoots its equilibrium level, and reaches the surface.
Recorded temperatures during heat bursts have reached well above 100° F, sometimes rising by 20° F or more within only a few minutes.
Thundersnow, also known as a winter thunderstorm, is an unusual kind of thunderstorm with snow falling as the primary precipitation, rather than rain. It typically falls in regions of strong upward motion within the cold sector of an extratropical cyclone. From a thermodynamic point of view, this isn’t really any different from any other type of thunderstorm, except the top of the cumulonimbus cloud is usually quite low.
Thundersnow is most common with lake-effect snow, like in the Great Lakes area of North America. Here in the United States, March is the peak month of formation. There is even thundersnow on Mount Everest, all the way around the world. Plus, the rather rare event can happen in a low-pressure form in the eastern Mediterranean. That particular phenomenon originates from a polar origin which can cause copious thundersnow occurrences during winter storms, especially over Israel and Jordan. I wonder what our ancestors would have interpreted combination hail and lightning to mean?
A few hundred years ago, Mesoamericans believed that hurricanes were the result of enraged deities, so priests would sacrifice children in an effort to appease the gods. Of course, nowadays people sort of know that a hurricane is really just a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean or the northeastern Pacific Ocean. In line with this, a tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system that is characterized by a low-pressure center, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain. As part of that, a major hurricane is anything that is Category 5 or more in strength. In fact, the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale originally only went up to Category 5, but the Industrial Age climate crisis now necessitates a new category 6, meaning superstorms with winds greater than 180 mph. To put that into perspective for you, Hurricane Katrina attained Category 5, with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph. Think about how bad that got.
Hurricane Katrina was nearly the size of Texas, with spiral arms the size of Florida. Thousands of people lost their lives in just that one severe storm, which did more than 125 billion dollars worth of damage in total. Plus, the frequency and intensity of major hurricanes have become quite alarming. In line with this, Katrina was the third major hurricane of the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record to make landfall in the contiguous United States, behind only the Labor Day hurricane in 1935, Camille in 1969, and Michael in 2018. To make matters worse, cars and cows created the climate crisis, but people don’t connect the dots. So, things like this will just keep happening.
Waves over fifty feet tall came crashing down on New Orleans and the levees broke, so about 80% of the area was flooded by fifteen feet of water. To make matters worse, hundreds of elderly men and women drowned, and many other communities were reduced to rubble by the damaging effects of the severe winds.
There were more than 1,000 Americans killed in that storm in 2005, but the deadliest storm in US history was in 1900 when more than 10,000 Texans lost their lives in a major hurricane.
This makes it seem like we are learning to deal with natural disasters better, but are we? The way I see it, Katrina could have been much worse, and New Orleans still hasn’t been able to properly recover from that superstorm. So, I guess the real question is, will the next major Gulf Coast hurricane claim 100 lives or 100,000?
Cases of blood rain have been reported since Homer’s Iliad. Before the 17th century, it was generally believed that the rain was actually blood. However, a 21st-century study has unambiguously established once and for all that the cause of blood rain in Kerala was the aerial spores of microalgae. Scientists used molecular phylogenetics to compare the evolution of the DNA sequence of T. annulata isolated from a blood rain sample from India with that of T. annulata from Austria.
The research confirmed that the introduction must have happened through clouds over the ocean, in a phenomenon of intercontinental species dispersal. Simply put, the spores from Europe were transported to India via clouds that drifted across the Arabian Sea to come down as blood rain. This was also related to the monsoon as well, as Kerala was the first state that the southwest monsoon struck together with Sri Lanka. Plus, southeast and northeast trade winds come together at a region called the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, which also contributes to the effect.
Sprites are dazzling large-scale electrical discharges that occur high above thunderstorm clouds, or cumulonimbus, giving rise to a varied range of visual shapes flickering in the night sky. They are usually triggered by the discharges of positive lightning between an underlying thundercloud and the ground. Unlike normal hot negative lightning, red sprites appear as luminous flashes of cold glowing light. These typically occur in clusters above the troposphere at an altitude range of about 30 to 55 miles. As part of this, they have electric tendrils hanging below, and electric branches reaching above. They often occur in clusters of two or more.
Sprites are usually reddish-orange in their upper regions, with bluish hanging tendrils below, and can also be preceded by a red halo. Sprites are mainly the result of positive lightning, which can be up to ten times as energetic as negative lightning. They last longer than normal lower stratospheric discharges and are usually triggered by the discharges of positive lightning between the thundercloud and the ground, although sprites generated by negative ground flashes have also been observed.
This is like something right out of a Lovecraftian cosmic horror short story. So, to our primitive ancestors, sprites with halos must have looked like portals to the spirit world or attacks from the gods.
The Hessdalen Lights
The Hessdalen lights are unexplained lights observed in a seven-and-a-half-mile-long stretch of the Hessdalen valley in rural central Norway. The Hessdalen lights are of unknown origin. They appear both by day and by night and seem to float through and above the valley. They are usually bright white, yellow, or red and can appear above and below the horizon. The duration of the phenomenon can be anywhere from a few seconds to well over an hour. Sometimes the lights move with enormous speed, and at other times they seem to sway slowly back and forth. On yet other occasions, they hover in mid‑air.
One possible explanation for this is that the large deposits of scandium in that area mix with hydrogen, oxygen, and sodium, thus producing combustion. Then again, the lights could also be formed by clusters of Coulomb crystals in a plasma that is produced by the ionization of air and dust during radon decay in the atmosphere. Either way, a spectacular effect is produced. Although at the same time, even though Coulomb crystal clusters sound like something from science fiction, this too has nothing to do with spaceships. Lenticular clouds and the Hessdalen lights may look like UFOs, but they’re really just part of the weird weather of our wild world, and nothing more. Granted, I don’t know if aliens or angels exist, I just know that these things aren’t the work of extraterrestrial or extradimensional entities. The bottom line is that there’s just way too much speculation and superstition surrounding all of this weird weather, and science deniers have the potential to be very detrimental. Ultimately, I guess the moral of the story is that no one should ever jump to any crazy conclusions about weird weather like this or anything else for that matter. So, thanks for reading and please keep a level head on your shoulders.