Climate and Weather

Pictures here are of weather, clouds and storms (especially clouds); a freezing winter in North America, snow and floods in Britain and ice in Germany; climate change and attempts to combat it (or not – read this from the US’s most influential climate-change denier, Senator James Inhofe).

The final section is of a storm at a Breton Lighthouse; don’t miss the Video video!

With all the storms, droughts, torrential rain, heatwaves, and record-breaking series of high and low temperatures over sustained periods that have occurred over the past decades, who could possibly deny climate change?

A 360° Rainbow

Aerial photographer Colin Leonhardt photographed a rare circular rainbow while flying around a rain shower above Cottesloe Beach in western Australia in 2013, according to abcNEWS. The secondary rainbow is there and some feint supernumary rainbows are just visible immediately inside the primary.

When Niagara Falls Froze Over a Century ago

“...Her mother had a cousin living in Niagara Falls that year. She told the family that she and her neighbours woke up in the night feeling something was wrong. It took a while but they finally realized that it was the lack of noise. They had all become so used to the roar of the falls that the silence was unusual enough to alert their senses. Of course at that time nearly all the houses were near the falls...”

Amazing pictures. Can you imagine walking on Niagara Falls? These are photos from 1912, when Niagara Falls were completely frozen. Makes you wonder just how cold and how long it was that cold!

They also froze in 1848. But they didn’t in the “polar vortex” of winter 2013-2014 – see this from the Huffington Post.

Here’s quite the opposite.

Ice Formations

Schwedt, Germany: Ice formations hang on trees at the Unteres Odertal national park (in German).

Britain Snow-bound, January 2010

Climate change doesn’t necessarily mean it will get hotter; just more extreme.

Western Europe, January–February 2014

Video Time-lapse video: Britain’s Unrelenting Storms of 2014 (see also Storms)

A series of images from 29th January to 10th February 2014 shows a succession of storms moving east across the Atlantic Ocean and hitting the UK, Spain, France and Portugal. The white areas show clouds, bright red is the jet stream and the purple is cold air. The green areas are warmer, more moist air.

Storms, plotted here by the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, have caused severe flooding and damage to properties and transport links on Europe’s Atlantic coast. Further east, counties including Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Austria and Switzerland, have experienced the heaviest snowfall for decades.

The River Thames, January 2014

An overturned boat is surrounded by high flood water from the River Thames near Shepperton in London on 15th January 2014. The Environment Agency recorded a 10-year high for the water level on several stretches of the Thames. And here’s a storm surge at Newlyn, Cornwall – scroll down to see the video.

New York City, January 2014

Video Time-lapse video: 6 Inches of Snow in New York City in the Polar Vortex of 2nd January 2014

More Evidence of Climate Change?

Flooding in Paris, June 2016

Flooding at Souppes-sur-Loign,
south of Paris, June 2016

2016 was western and central Europe’s turn for serious flooding (among other locations across the world)

Batagaika Crater, Siberia, caused by melting of the permafrost, first appeared 25 years ago, is about 1 km long and 90 m deep and widening by 20 m per year

Weather, Clouds and Storms

⇐ Don’t miss this storm at a Breton Lighthouse and the video!

Weathering ⇒

A tennis ball, left out in the Texas sun for a year has lost its colour.

⇐ Autumn Camouflage

OK. What stupid car-sprayer left it in the forest to dry?

A Bank of Sea Fog ⇒

A bank of sea fog off San Sebastián (Donostia in Basque), Guipúzcoa, Spain.

⇐ Fog in Sydney

Heavy fog in Sydney, enveloping the whole city.

But I bet these fogs were nothing like the good old London smogs which were so thick that you couldn’t see your hand behind your back‽ One was so thick that my father, driving home from work, recognized the car in front as being from a neighbouring street, so he followed its tail-lights for several miles; eventually the car in front stopped, and Dad found himself in the car owner’s front drive!

The Great Smog of London from 5th to 9th December 1952 was no joke; it killed an estimated 12,000 people.

Powerful Storms (Tornados, Hurricanes, Typhoons)

Whether you call them hurricanes, typhoons, tropical cyclones, extratropical cyclones, thunderstorms, cyclonic storms, tropical depressions, they can produce tornadoes, storm surges, blizzards, waterspouts, dust storms, firestorms, ice storms, lightning and supercells. They are generally regarded as unpleasant (unless you are a tornado spotter) and frequently dangerous.

The 1970 Bhola cyclone was a devastating tropical cyclone that struck Bangladesh and West Bengal on 12th November 1970. It remains the deadliest tropical cyclone ever recorded, and one of the deadliest natural disasters in modern times. Up to 500,000 people lost their lives in the storm, primarily as a result of the storm surge that flooded much of the low-lying islands of the Ganges Delta.

The eye of Super Typhoon Maysak [second row, right] photographed by astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti from the International Space Station. Residents in storm wrecked areas of Micronesia appealed for help as a clean up began on the worst affected islands after it swept through the region.


Simplified classification of clouds

For Cloud Aficionados

If clouds interest you, Wikipedia has an extensive article that lists cloud types, which also contains a large number of photographs.

For a web site that contains thousands of photographs from cumulonimbus to mammatus, and from funnel clouds to a Kelvin-Helmholtz formation of cirrostratus fibratus, see – or even join – The Cloud Appreciation Society.

⇐ Actinoform Clouds

Actinoform clouds are only visible from space. These large formations form ray-like patterns over hundreds of miles. They are associated with drizzle and gloomy weather. Very British, perhaps?

Altocumulus Undulatus Cloud ⇒

Altocumulus undulatus clouds at Abruzzo national park, Italy. This cloud formation consists of parallel bands of cumulus clouds, occuring when wind shear affects a layer of altocumulus.

⇐ Cumulonimbus Clouds

Cumulonimbus cloud over western Africa, taken from the International Space Station (ISS). Cumulonimbus clouds rise vertically until they hit a natural barrier, known as the tropopause (the atmospheric boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere), and then flatten out. Cumulonimbus usually herald a severe storm.

Dust Storm ⇒

A huge dust storm hit Western Australia in early 2013

⇐ Lenticular Clouds

This type of cloud can occur almost anywhere in the world where the geographical and other weather conditions are right. More here.

[Right-hand picture] Lenticular cloud, Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The lens-shaped clouds form at high altitude and are usually formed when air passes over mountain tops.

Mammatus Clouds ⇒

South Dakota, US: Mammatus clouds over South Dakota. Mammatus is a meteorological term applied to a cellular pattern of pouches hanging underneath the base of a cloud.

Morning Glory

Morning Glory — clouds observed in the Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia.

Spectacular, rare, and awesomely powerful, the Morning Glory of the Gulf of Carpentaria in Northern Australia is a magnet for growing numbers of soaring pilots and scientists. Unique in all the world and shrouded in mystery, the Morning Glory arrives regularly each spring.

Dynamic waves of this type occur unheralded everywhere and at all altitudes, and are the possible cause of much of the clear air turbulence which so disrupts commercial air travel. Those waves, however, are usually invisible, infrequent and currently all but unpredictable. Morning Glory waves sometimes exceed 1000 km in length and 10,000 feet in height and are associated with the Northern Australian Cloud Line.

See the satellite image of Morning Glory clouds with associated upper wave system.

⇐ Nacreous (or Mother-of-Pearl) Clouds

Nacreous clouds, sometimes called mother-of-pearl clouds, are rare but once seen are never forgotten. They are mostly visible within two hours after sunset or before dawn when they blaze unbelievably bright with vivid and slowly shifting iridescent colours. They are filmy sheets slowly curling and uncurling, stretching and contracting in the semi-dark sky. Compared with dark scudding low altitude clouds that might be present, nacreous clouds stand majestically in almost the same place – an indicator of their great height.

They need the very frigid regions of the lower stratosphere some 15 to 25 km high and well above tropospheric clouds. They are so bright after sunset and before dawn because at those heights they are still sunlit.

They are seen mostly during winter at high latitudes like Scandinavia, Iceland, Alaska and Northern Canada. Sometimes, however, they occur as far south as England.

Noctilucent Clouds ⇒

Noctilucent clouds are crystals of ice hanging around 50 miles high in the atmosphere that catch the light of the sun long after it has set on the horizon.

⇐ Pileus Clouds

Pileus cloud above the Sarychev volcano as it erupts, at the Kuril Islands, Russia. Pileus clouds are small clouds that form on top of a bigger cloud.

Shelf Cloud ⇒

When seen from the ground shelf clouds, like this one in Minnesota, appear as low, wedge-shaped clouds and are usually associated with severe thunderstorms.

⇐ “Smoke Rings”

A steam ring being blown from the Bocca Nuova vent of Mount Etna, Sicily. Steam rings are generated when a pulse of steam is ejected from a near-cylindrical volcanic vent. See more here.

Supercell Thunderstorm ⇒

A supercell just north of Grand Island, Nebraska, US. Supercell thunderstorms rotate with immense energy, causing a strong updraft and severe weather, including tornadoes, hail, heavy rain, lightning and very high winds.

⇐ Von Karman Cloud Vortices

Von Karman cloud vortices above Alexander Selkirk Island, Chile. These naturally occurring vortices are crafted by wind patterns on the clouds.

Climate Change And Attempts To Combat It

The Arctic’s Near-record Sea Ice Low

A view from space of Arctic sea ice at a near record low in 2011. Scientists in Germany, who use a different methodology, said 2011 was a record low.

By early September, the area covered by sea ice in the Arctic Ocean was approaching a record low. On 9th September, sea ice covered 4.33 million square kilometres, US National Snow and Ice Data Center reported. The 2011 low is 2.38 million square kilometres below the average minimum extent measured between 1979 and 2000. Late season melt or a shift in wind patterns could still decrease the sea ice extent before the winter freeze-up begins.

Da Vinci Sketch on Melting Arctic Ice

Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man has been recreated by an artist in the Arctic to highlight melting ice.

John Quigley, who travelled on a Greenpeace icebreaker to create the copper artwork in the Fram Strait, between Greenland and Norwegian Svalbard, said: “We created the Melting Vitruvian Man because climate change is literally eating into the body of our civilisation”. September 2011 could mark the lowest sea ice minimum on record.

Latest (27th June 2016): Growing Arctic Carbon Emissions Could Go Unobserved.

Huge Solar Photovoltaic Farm

A new photovoltaic park has opened in Les Mées, in the southern department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France.

Spread across 36 acres, the park, built by Belgian firm Enfinity, joins several other plants built on the vast Puimichel plateau.
By the end of 2011, solar panels will cover 200 hectares and produce around 100MW, making it the biggest solar array in France.
Enfinity’s €70m investment has included work to preserve the landscape with space for grazing
and a system without a concrete foundation.
The photovoltaic park can generate 18.2MW and an annual supply of 26 million kWh that will supply electricity to some 8,000 families.

Round-the-clock Solar Power Plant in Spain

Video Gemasolar, the world’s first commercial high-temperature solar power plant.

It is expected to be able to supply energy to the grid based on demand, regardless of whether there is constant solar radiation. It is a 15 megawatt solar power tower plant and uses molten salt technologies for receiving and storing energy.
Its 16-hour molten salt storage system can deliver power around the clock. It runs the equivalent of 6,570 full hours out of 8,769 total, say makers Torresol Energy.

Chasing Ice: Huge Iceberg Break-up

It’s like watching ‘Manhattan breaking apart in front of your eyes’, says one of the researchers for film-maker James Balog. He’s describing the largest iceberg calving ever filmed, as featured in his movie, Video Chasing Ice [part shown here from the Guardian]. After weeks of waiting, the film-makers witnessed 7.4 cubic km of ice crashing off the Ilulissat glacier in Greenland. ‘Chasing Ice’ follows Balog’s mission to document Arctic ice being melted by climate change.

Amazon Rainforest

Superlatives overflow when it comes to the Amazon rainforest.

Despite being cut down at an alarming rate, it still covers 2.7 million square miles. Growing across nine different countries, it represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests, making it the largest and most biodiverse tropical rainforest in the world. The forest is fed by the Amazon river, the largest river in the world by volume, which also has the biggest drainage basin on the planet.

Artificial Forests of the Future

Giant fly-swats and freight containers may help prevent catastrophic climate change, say engineers.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has come up with some ideas for what “artificial forests” — technologies that absorb CO2, in a similar way to trees — could look like in the future. These structures would use chemical processes or natural carbon sponges such as algae to take in carbon and store it, or even turn it into useful products.

As global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, sucking carbon dioxide out of the air may be one way of trying to combat climate change. This image of what appear to be giant fly-swats and freight containers shows what the artificial forests of the future might look like. The United Nations climate chief, Christiana Figueres, said recently that the world might need to look at such options in order to avoid the worst effects of global warming. Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at IMechE, said: “It is clear that work needs to be done to cut the amount of greenhouse gas emissions people produce. But we also need to look at creative and ingenious ways of preventing climate change by taking out the emissions we have already put in the atmosphere, particularly CO2 — essentially cleaning up air”. He said the technology to make these contraptions already existed, though some of it is at a very early stage, and called for more funding for research and development.

Japanese Ingenuity: Save your plastic!

This is one of the most amazing Video break-throughs in Technology I have ever seen! (5-minute video) Why aren’t we doing this now? We should all do what we can to save what we are destroying! Not surprised at this at all, just a case of Japanese ingenuity and perseverance. What is more important would be the marketing and very low cost to make it mandatory to have one of these in every home. The sound is all in Japanese. Just read the subtitles and watch. What a great discovery!

Storm in Montana

A storm in Montana, USA in 2010.

Montana is one of the US states that seems particularly susceptible to storms. [Mind you, we’ve had our share in Catalonia over the years, with 9 inches of rain in one hour breaking our back garden wall, and hail-stones denting the roof of my car. Also, flash floods in Sitges caused parked cars to be piled three high in a narrow street.]

Large hail stones in Bozeman, Montana on 30thJune 2010 – the hail storm lasted only a few minutes but managed to wreak enough havoc, with car windows shattered, power lines brought down, fallen branches... “Incredible, golf-ball sized or larger hail rained down in our front yard”, according to Video this video.


Metdesk advertisement

Lightning Strikes Eiffel Tower

A lightning bolt appears to strike the Eiffel Tower.

This picture, by amateur photographer Bertrand Kulik (a concert violinist), of a lightning bolt appearing to strike the Eiffel Tower, was included in an exhibition of images of lightning strikes across France held in Issy l’Évêque in Burgundy.

Lightning on Mount Etna

Flashes of lightning were seen during a so-called ‘dirty thunderstorm’ as Mount Etna erupted on Sicily. The image was created by merging five separate images in sequence.

Volcanic Lightning

Winter Sunrise and Sunset over the Spanish Coast

27/12/2013, 9:03 a.m.

3/1/2014, 9:10 a.m.

11/11/2012, 6:47 p.m.

24/11/2012, 6:22 p.m.

The four photographs of the morning and evening skies over the Mediterranean Sea were taken looking south from the eastern Spanish coast. The times are all Central European Time (GMT+1 hour).

Japanese Tsunami of 2011

Not exactly “Weather”, but here’s a Video video of the Japanese Tsunami of 2011, the tsunami that resulted in the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant (½ hour).

Breton Lighthouse Storms

“Lighthouse guard in Mare, France must be one of the most courageous people on the planet!
Not everyone will have a smoke in such weather, and in such a place!”...
Well, that’s the usual caption to the photo, and it’s not true...


...Here’s the real story of that lighthouse...

[You can watch the whole thing on Video YouTube.]
The video was taken on 7th December 2007 in “Raz de Sein” at the western tip of France, in Brittany, on a (very) stormy day.

This is one of the most recognizable lighthouse photographs in the world. When first seeing the famous and historical photograph, most people assume that the lighthouse keeper must have been killed. In fact, the keepers had been living in fear of death during a storm in 1989 and at one point had taken refuge in the lantern room of the tower. Waves the night before had smashed through the lower windows of the tower, causing the structure to flood, washing away everything in its path including the television, table, chairs, coffee maker and even the refrigerator. The keepers in fact were waiting to be rescued by helicopter.

La Jument is the name of a lighthouse on the coast of Brittany. It is built on a rock (also called La Jument) about 300 metres from the coast of the island of Ushant, out in the ocean. There is also an almost identical lighthouse about three kilometres to the north, the Nividic lighthouse. Together with the Kreac’h (or Phare du Creach or Créac’h) lighthouse, they are the three most famous lighthouses of the region.

This section of the coastline of Brittany has always been known by sailors to be a rugged and dangerous area. Being by the westernmost point of land, it is a heavily trafficked sealane, and additionally has severe weather for much of the year. Indeed the area has experienced many shipwrecks over the centuries. One such was the wreck of the steam ship Drummond Castle in June, 1896, responsible for the death of nearly 250 people.

Construction began on the lighthouse on the rock of La Jument in 1904, and it was completed in 1911.

The lighthouse became well-known in 1989, through a series of photographs taken by Jean Guichard during a storm, while the lighthouse keepers were stranded. Upon viewing the pictures, it would be easy to conclude that the man in the shots perished as a result of the wave. However, this is not true.

The lighthouse keepers had been waiting for a rescue helicopter; on hearing the sound of Guichard’s own helicopter, one of them came out to investigate. As the enormous wave broke over the lighthouse, he was able to hastily retreat back inside.

These lighthouses isolated in the open sea are called “Hells” because of the roughness of living conditions inside the isolated buildings, frequently harassed by the elements.

The first one seen in the video is Ar Men (“The Rock” in Breton), one of the best known lighthouses because of its isolated situation and the considerable difficulties its construction presented (14 years were needed to build it), and the danger in evacuating its personnel. Considered one of the most challenging workplaces by the community of lighthouse keepers, it has been named “The Hell of Hells”. It was automated in 1990.

Later in the video we see Tévennec, a little known lighthouse situated on the east side of Sein Island. It had such bad luck in store for its guardians that it was suspected to be unlucky, or even haunted. Indeed, during stormy weather, some keepers reported that gloomy screams could be heard. Recently a cave was found in the rock on which Tévennec was built; that may explain the weird noises heard by the keepers. Since nobody wanted to live on this rock anymore, this lighthouse was automated way before the others, in 1910.

Nowadays, general automation makes human presence useless aboard these ocean look-out posts. In 2004, Kéréon, the “Palace of the Sea”, the last lived-in open sea lighthouse, finally closed its doors of its magnificent woodwork and its compass-rose made in ebony and mahogany.

The previous lighthouses automated were: Ar Men (1990), La Jument (1991), les Pierres Noires (1992), le Four (1993) and la Vieille (1995).

As nobody is there to clean, fix and maintain these lighthouses anymore, they are slowly deteriorating. If nothing is done they may collapse in the coming years, as happened to an auxiliary tower at La Vieille lighthouse during a storm on 10th April 2008.

Other lighthouse storms on YouTube.

Portland Bill Lighthouse, Dorset

Monsoon clouds over Bryce Canyon, Utah

At the End of the Rainbow