10 of the spookiest weather phenomena

Cloud around the moon

With Halloween just around the corner, we take a look at some of the spooky weather that can be seen, from UFO-shaped clouds to mysterious rings around the sun and moon. Check out our top 10 spooky weather phenomena:

1. Thunder and lightning

Thunder and lightning

One of the most common forms of 'scary weather', thousands of thunderstorms are taking place at any one time across the globe. The lightning you see during a thunderstorm is a large electrical spark caused by electrons moving from one place to another, while the rumble of thunder is caused by the noise of intense heating and expansion of the air along the path of the lightning.

2. Brocken spectre

Brocken Spectre

The Brocken spectre effect is produced when an observer stands above the upper surface of a cloud - on a mountain or high ground - with the sun behind them. When they view their shadow the light is reflected back in such a way that a spooky circular 'glory' appears around the point directly opposite the sun.

3. Fallstreak hole

Fallstreak hole

fallstreak hole appears as a mysterious hole in the clouds, hence it is sometimes known as a 'holepunch cloud'. They form in clouds of supercooled water droplets, where water is below 0 °C but has not yet frozen. When aircraft punch through this cloud layer, they can cause air to expand and cool as it passes over the aircraft wings or propeller. This sudden change in temperature can be enough to encourage the supercooled droplets to freeze and fall from the cloud layer causing the distinctive hole in the clouds.

4. Dust devil

Dust devil
Dust devil in Basingstoke

A dust devil (sometimes known as a 'willy-willy') is an upward spiraling, dust-filled vortex of air that can vary in height from a few feet to over 1,000 ft. The phenomenon can seemingly appear from nowhere lasting only a few minutes before cool air is sucked into its base cutting off its heat supply. They mainly occur in desert and semi-arid areas, where the ground is dry and high surface temperatures produce strong updrafts.

5. Sea mist

Sea mist

Sea mist occurs when mild air moves over the sea, which is cooler. It can be particularly spooky when sea mist comes in during the day and visibility is drastically reduced. The spooky nature of sea mist is used by Bram Stoker to announce the mysterious arrival of Count Dracula onto the shores Whitby.

"It needed but little effort to imagine that the spirits of those lost at sea were touching their living brethren with the clammy hands of death, and many a one shuddered as the wreaths of sea-mist swept by."

6. Roll cloud

Roll cloud

The ominous looking roll cloud is a type of arcus cloud usually associated with a thunderstorm or a cold front. As these rare clouds often appear to be 'rolling' they often cause fear that severe weather is on the way.

7. Halo around the moon

Halo around the moon. Photo: Hustvedt

A faint ring around the moon is created when the sunlight reflected by the moon passes through ice crystals in high-level cirriform cloud and is refracted to create a 'halo' around the moon.

8. Lenticular clouds

Lenticular clouds

Owing to their distinctive oval shape, Lenticular clouds have often been mistaken as UFO sightings. They form when the air is stable and winds blow from the same or similar direction at many levels of the troposphere. As the wind blows across hilly or mountainous regions, the air undulates in a downstream train of waves. If there is enough moisture in the air, these waves will condense to form the unique appearance of lenticular clouds.

9. Red sunsets

Red sunset

Sunsets are often one of nature's most beautiful sights, but sometimes a particularly vibrant blood red sunset can create a spooky effect. The same effect at sunrise also give rise to the shepherd's warning in the familiar "red sky at night" proverb.

10. Dust storms

Dust storm

Dust and sand storms can be whipped up rapidly by strong winds in arid regions. Dust storms can look particularly ominous as they approach with heights of up to 40 metres.

Last updated: 1 September 2016

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