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These 5 weather phenomena are some of the rarest on Earth

Mammatus clouds form over houses at sunset.
Mammatus clouds form over houses at sunset. (Getty Images)

After the Midwest experienced a derecho, a tornado tore through Central Florida and a fire tornado broke out in North California -- all in the last two weeks -- it got us thinking about some of the rare and interesting types of weather phenomena.

These are five of some of the rarest on earth.

1. Ball lightning

While scientists don’t fully understand ball lightning, and despite the fact that at least one study, according to National Geographic, theorized the sightings are hallucinations caused by magnetic fields during storms, most scientists seem to agree it is real.

The first sighting of ball lightning that was ever recorded was in 1638. The “great ball of fire” went through a window of an English church. That, and other early accounts, suggested ball lightning could be deadly.

One piece of research theorizes that ball lightning is the product of a reaction between oxygen and vaporized elements from soil caused by a lightning ground strike.

Another theory states that atmospheric ions pile up at the surface of a window, producing enough of an electrical field on the other side, which generates a discharge.

Ball lightning has also been associated with earthquakes.

There are many theories, and many scientists have tried to create the phenomena, but even amid all the lab experiments, experts say there is still a lot to learn about ball lightning.


2. Hail glaciers

You may remember pictures and videos of Guadalajara in 2019 that appeared as if the Mexican city had gotten snow. That rare occurrence was actually hail glaciers.

Hail glaciers happen when excessive hail fall combines with heavy rain in the aftermath of a severe thunderstorm, according to the American Meteorological Society.

Hail glaciers have persisted for days and weeks.


3. Twin tornadoes

Produced by a single supercell, twin tornadoes are unusual.

These are different from tornado outbreaks, in which multiple tornadoes are associated with separate supercells.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist at its Storm Prediction Center told National Geographic there are several ways to get twins. If a tornado spins up before an old one dies out, when they overlap, there are two twisters on the ground from the same supercell.

Twin tornados.
Twin tornados. (Getty Images)

4. Record-breaking heat

Does this one seem obvious or surprising? The year 2019 was the second-hottest on record in the NOAA’s 140-year climate record, just behind 2016, according to the administration.

In fact, scientists say nine of the world’s 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005, the NOAA reports.

Heat waves rise near a heat danger warning sign.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Heat waves rise near a heat danger warning sign. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images) (2013 Getty Images)

5. South Atlantic hurricanes

Only one known hurricane has ever been recorded in the South Atlantic, according to the NOAA. Catarina made landfall over Brazil in March 2004 as a Category 1 storm.

In March 2019, Tropical Storm Iba formed off the southeast coast of Brazil, but never grew into a hurricane. It was the first named tropical storm in the South Atlantic in almost 10 years.

Over the course of 50 years, between 1957 and 2007, researchers found that only 63 subtropical cyclones had formed in the South Atlantic.

Hurricane.
Hurricane. (2010 NOAA)

What kind of rare phenomena have you experienced?


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