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Fwd = Weather Phenomena That Baffle Scientists

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  • Frits Westra
    Forwarded by: fwestra@hetnet.nl (Frits Westra) URL: http://www.100megsfree4.com/farshores/fphenom.htm Original Date: Sat, 2 Nov 2002
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 3, 2002
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      Forwarded by: fwestra@... (Frits Westra)
      URL: http://www.100megsfree4.com/farshores/fphenom.htm
      Original Date: Sat, 2 Nov 2002 07:39:05 -0800

      ========================== Forwarded message begins ======================

      Weather Phenomena That Baffle Scientists
      by Paul Simons

      If you thought the weather was just sunshine and showers what do you
      make of balls of glowing light, showers of frogs, giant lumps of ice
      that fall from the heavens, ships floating in the sky, and many other
      weird sights? Weather can behave in very bizarre ways, and scientists
      have to scratch their heads when they try to explain some of these
      unusual phenomena.

      Weird Lights: In June 1996 a sphere of light the size of a tennis ball
      flew into a printing factory in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. A dozen
      workers looked up in astonishment as the blue and white ball whizzed
      round inside, spinning along girders, hitting print machinery, sending
      sparks flying. Finally it hit a window and exploded with an orange
      flash and a tremendous bang, knocking out the telephone switchboard.
      "The whole place was lit up," said Simon Pocock, one of the staff.
      "The sparks were unbelievable - it was like a horror movie." Three
      people received electric shocks, one lady was hit in the shoulder.

      Thousands of people all over the world have reported seeing mysterious
      glowing balls of light gliding inside their homes and even inside
      aircraft. They vary in size from a golfball to a football, in a
      variety of iridescent colours, with little noise, no smell and
      generally disappear by hitting television sets or other electrical
      fittings with a pop. In the most violent cases, glowing balls have
      exploded into flames and set houses ablaze. Its a phenomenon called
      "ball lightning". It usually come during thunderstorms, but no one
      knows what it is except that its an electrical freak of nature. Ball
      lightning might even help explain "Foo Fighters". In World War II many
      pilots reported glowing balls of light flying alongside their
      aircraft. They thought it was some sort of secret enemy weapon, but
      German and Allied pilots both experienced the same phenomenon. To this
      day the lights remain a complete mystery.

      We know that thunderstorms can put on some other very weird light
      displays. In olden days mariners often saw the tops of their ship
      masts glow as thunderstorms developed. They called it "St Elmos fire",
      and its eerie light comes from the intense static electricity
      streaming up tall objects and discharging as a glowing corona. One of
      the most fantastic displays in recent times was in 1976 when many of
      the players at a school football match in Dover, England found their
      heads glowing and understandably abandoned their game! In itself St
      Elmos isnt dangerous but it often appears just before a lightning
      strike, so if you do experience it, it might be wise to get out of the
      area as soon as possible.

      Strange Showers: One overcast day in 1939 a thunderstorm broke out in
      Trowbidge in Wiltshire, but this was no ordinary shower. As the
      heavens opened up, people at the towns open air swimming pool were
      astonished to see hundreds of small frogs falling down from the sky.
      "It was a job to walk on the path without treading on them", according
      to one woman reported in The Times.

      Over the years all sorts of animals and plants have showered down
      during thunderstorms, possibly sucked up from rivers and lakes by
      tornadoes (or their watery equivalents - waterspouts) into
      thunderclouds and then dumped miles away in heavy rain. Another sort
      of shower of wildlife might be easier to explain. Dozens of dead birds
      have occasionally been seen plummeting out of the sky, sometimes
      partly frozen. These poor animals were probably swept up high in the
      powerful updrafts of a thundercloud, then frozen like hailstones
      before gravity took over. Giant pieces of ice have also been reported
      crashing to earth, and these are often blamed on ice falling from
      aircraft. But the largest recorded ice fall was 20 feet long and fell
      on Scotland in 1849 - long before aircraft were invented! They might
      be hailstones which have somehow joined into a massive lump of ice but
      nobody really knows.

      But most common of all are rains of blood which have been reported all
      over the world ever since biblical times. An important clue to their
      cause came in July 1968 in southern England, when a shower coated
      everything in red gritty dust. It was fine sand blown up from the
      Sahara and carried over a thousand miles inside a massive high
      pressure systems before falling in a rainshower.

      Weird Sights in the Sky: An almost clear blue sky can put on some
      remarkable displays of magic - and can even help change the course of
      history. In 1461 Edward IV was about to fight a Lancastrian force at
      Mortimers Cross in Herefordshire when his army saw a fantastic vision
      - three suns were lined up in a row in the sky. His men panicked but
      Edward took the sight as a good omen and rallied the troops to

      What they had seen were sundogs, created by microscopic ice crystals
      in high wispy cirrus clouds, bending sunlight like glass prisms so
      that a pair of ghost images of the sun appeared alongside the real
      sun. Its more common than youd think - watch out for a veil of cirrus
      cloud over the sun on a bright day. Small wonder that these sorts of
      optical phenomena can easily be taken as religious signs. One
      memorable case was the tragic mountaineering expedition led by Edward
      Whymper on the first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865. They
      mountaineers reached the peak but on their descent tragedy struck when
      four of the men fell down a precipice to their deaths. Later that
      evening Whymper saw an amazing vision: a circle of light with three
      crosses in the sky. "The ghostly apparitions of light hung motionless;
      it was a strange and awesome sight, unique to me and indescribably
      imposing at such a moment." Whymper had seen sunlight split by a veil
      of thin cloud into a large bow, part of a horizontal circle with
      vertical pillars of light crossing it. A similar sort of horizontal
      band can also be seen when you look at a light through a window
      smeared with grease in one direction or reflected by finely ribbed
      glass; the band of light is always seen at right angles to the
      ripples. Mountaineers also see ghosts! Huge shadowy spectres called
      Brocken Spectres, after the Brocken peak in Germany, are created by
      the shadows of mountaineers projected onto low clouds and reflected
      back by the tiny water droplets in the mist. Probably the commonest
      light show in the sky are mirages. They can bend light over the
      horizon so that people as far as Hastings have clearly seen the French
      coast across the English Channel, and sailors in Dublin Bay have
      claimed to see Mount Snowdon a 100 miles away.

      These mirages are created by calm, warm air sitting on top of cold air
      - a temperature inversion - bending light from over the horizon like a
      glass prism, creating amazing images and revealing places hidden over
      the horizon. On rare occasions a temperature inversion turns into an
      even weirder light show. In 1957 passengers on the cruiser Edinburgh
      Castle sailing up the English Channel saw a line of ships upside down
      on the horizon - but they were upside down, some on top of each other,
      funnel to funnel and elongated. The images were ships projected from
      below the skyline. With this sort of optical trickery its not
      surprising that mirages can explain quite a few UFO sightings. Long
      before flying saucers were ever heard of, sailors reported seeing
      ships sailing in the sky. This might explain the legend of the Flying
      Dutchman, a ghostly ship that haunted the seas around South Africas
      Cape of Good Hope in stormy weather, luring ships to their

      Another remarkable example of a weird mirage appeared over Edinburgh
      in 1986, when two eyewitnesses saw what looked like a cigar-shaped UFO
      flying close by. The only known aircraft at the time was a Boeing 757
      landing at nearby Edinburghs Logan Airport - the alien craft was
      probably an upside down mirage of the aircraft alongside the normal
      image, creating the appearance of a flying cylinder.

      Weird Colours in the Sky: "Once in a blue moon" goes the saying, and
      its a rare thing indeed, but the moon really can change blue. It
      happened in 1950, when a massive forest fire raging in Alberta,
      Canada, poured gigantic clouds of fine, sooty droplets that weeks
      later reached Europe, 4 miles high in the sky. These droplets were
      just the right size to scatter moonlight and make the moon appear
      blue. Probably the most fantastic coloured moons - and suns - were
      seen all over the world following the eruption of Krakatau in 1883.

      Tremendous quantities of extremely fine volcanic dust were shot up
      into the upper atmosphere and stayed afloat for years, creating
      stupendous sunrises and sunsets as the dust scattered red light
      strongly when the sun was low in the sky. The dust from Krakatoa also
      created beautiful rings of blue, brown and white around the sun and
      moon. This stunning phenomenon might explain a later sighting in 1917,
      when three children claimed they saw the Virgin Mary in the sky near
      the village of Fatima in Portugal. Their vision eventually attracted
      100,000 pilgrims who watched in amazement as veils of silver, blue and
      yellow played in ethereal dances over the sun. But it was probably
      caused by a volcanic eruption in Costa Rica in Central America.

      Published by
      Independent /Bangladesh - Jan 09.02

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