The solar cycle is an approximately 11-year pattern marked by increases and decreases in sun activity and sunspots. After a minimum was reached in 2019, a peak is expected in 2024, so we’re now entering a high-activity period. With increased solar activity comes increased chances to spot the aurora borealis.
Julianna Glinskas, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Glasgow, Montana, captured a spectacular photo of the northern lights on Nov. 5, 2023. The colorful display that night was visible as far south as Texas and North Carolina, according to SpaceWeather.com photographers.
The same night, an NWS photographer at the Riverton, Wyoming, office snapped a rather artistic picture of the aurora, with the office’s WSR-88D NEXRAD radar standing tall in the foreground. Click on the gallery above to see that photo.
Photography by Tandem Wheels is a husband-and-wife photography team that takes pictures of the weather and nature in the Pacific Northwest. Sean Wheeler had a memorable morning last winter, when he took his camera out to a field in the Skagit Valley region of Washington state in search of nature pictures. Temperatures were in the low 20s F after a snowfall when a flock of snow geese landed in a field at sunrise.
"An early morning I don’t think I could ever forget," Wheeler said on X, formerly known as Twitter, when he posted the photo. He explained that with each honk and exhale, the geese’s breath was visible, and it appeared to glow gold in the nature picture. “It was amazing to be there.”
Snow geese population in North America has risen from 1 million in 1970 to at least 13 million today, and flocks can contain as many as 11,000 of the birds, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This time of year, they can be seen in the Midwest and Northeast, eating leftover corn and wheat on their migration south. (edited)
Laurie DeMent, a photographer from New Castle, Colorado, was thrilled to capture these colorful photographs of fall foliage and morning fog at a lake in her neighborhood park on Oct. 13, 2023. Residents in the area believe that this autumn's color has been particularly spectacular, with one Facebook user commenting on DeMent's photo, "This morning's drive to Glenwood was probably the most beautiful I've ever seen, and I've lived in New Castle since 1977."
DeMent told AccuWeather, "The pond has been a favorite place of mine for fall photos in years past so I was waiting for the right morning to take some photos this year. That Friday, I saw the fog hanging low on the mountains around town and I grabbed my camera."
"The perfectly still water, the early morning fog, and the bright pops of fall colors all came together perfectly!" DeMent said, adding, "I got down as close to the surface of the water as I could, and had time to line up several satisfying shots before the sun came in and the fog rolled out for the day."
Something very special took place on Oct. 14, 2023, in southern Utah. A solar eclipse graced the scenic Bryce Canyon during its 100th anniversary, just like it did the year the park was born. The National Park Service captured multiple photos, which they composited into this image, showing the progress of the eclipse as it traversed the sky over the colorful canyon.
"In 1923, Bryce Canyon experienced a partial eclipse during a total solar eclipse that passed along the Pacific coast. For our centennial year we’ve now come 'full circle' with today’s 'Ring of Fire' eclipse," the NPS said on the Bryce Canyon NP Facebook page,
The 36,000-acre park, which boasts some of the world's best air quality, won't experience another total eclipse for hundreds of years, the NPS said.
The path of the Oct. 14, 2023 eclipse, with the star designating the location of Bryce Canyon National Park.
Santiago Borja captures amazing aerial storm and cloud photos from his seat as a long-haul commercial airline pilot. "At first, I was only a pilot, but then I got lucky to fly international routes... so we spent a lot of time in the airplane and usually with extra crew," Borja told AccuWeather about his unique situation. "I started doing photography, then focused on storms because I've always loved weather." Borja added, "Of course, your number one priority in the air is safety. But then you want to capture some of these amazing images."
In this now-viral photo, a strong thunderstorm (Cumulonimbus cloud) over the Pacific Ocean south of Panama City flashes lightning as Borja's Boeing 767 circles the airport at 37,000 feet. He said of the photo, "The storm had developed over a strong temperature inversion that created the low layer of clouds. Its updrafts were so fast that they actually pierced the tropopause and created the so-called overshooting tops." The photo won Borja the 3rd place landscape winner in the National Geographic 2016 Nature Photographer of the Year.
In the second photo shown in the gallery above, a lightning strike thunders down from a thunderstorm over Ecuador. The lightning has a second "ghost image" strike displaced ever so slightly away from the original. This is because, although they seem to happen at once to the human eye, lightning strikes often contain multiple strokes, and if you're traveling too fast while taking the photo, the strokes will repeat slightly apart from each other on the final image.
It’s not often that a pilot is also a photographer, providing some truly unique views of storms and our world.
There's nothing more beautiful than fall colors with the first snowfall, especially in the Rocky Mountains. Rocko Menzyk, a photographer for Alta Ski Area captured just that in a series of photos on Oct. 2, 2023, marking the beginning of the inevitable plunge of temperatures into winter. This was the first snow of the season to fall from top to bottom at Alta, located just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, this season.
Alta Ski Resort was one of the first to open in the United States in 1938. Last winter, the ski slope recorded 903 inches (75.25 feet) of snow, a new record and one of the highest amounts ever measured in the United States.
Who -- or what -- is STEVE? We asked storm chaser Aaron Rigsby, who often chases severe weather for AccuWeather. He recently took amazing photos, including a panorama, of the rare phenomenon on Sept. 18, 2023, during a showing of the Aurora Borealis.
“STEVE stands for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement," Rigsgy explained. "It occurs with the northern lights but is not an aurora. Technically, it’s a ‘skyglow’ created by heated, shining particles in the ionosphere. I’ve seen Aurora dozens of times and have never actually captured STEVE until now.”
The unique light streak has appeared three times in the lower 48 United States so far this year, Rigsby said. It was first documented in 2016.
“After the first initial bursts of the auroral substorm, I first noticed STEVE, thinking it was part of the aurora,” he said. “It wasn’t until I saw the ‘picket fence’ of green aurora that I realized it was a STEVE, and I scrambled to point my camera in that direction.”
Not only is STEVE elusive, but nighttime panoramas are also very difficult because the stars and aurora move so fast.
“When I got home and loaded the photos onto my computer, I anxiously watched as my program stitched them together,” added Rigsby. “When it was done, I sat there smiling because it actually worked, and I was able to capture this beautiful scene successfully.”
The beautiful photo shown above was taken by Jonathan Benz and posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Sept. 22, 2023.
Or was it?
It's hard to know what's real on the Internet these days, so the kneejerk reaction to a photo that looks "too good to be true" is to try to point out what seems to be disinformation. When people started posting pictures of similar peak fall foliage near Grand Marais and Lutsen, Minnesota, last week, the Internet wasn't having it. "I am going to call this a lie... no way this was taken this morning. I doubt it's even a picture of northern MN," said one person on X. "I'm thinking this is an old photo," said another X user.
The photographer replied to the post to defend the photo, sharing what is considered "proof" in the photography community -- a screen capture of the “EXIF” data embedded in the original file from the camera, showing the date and time that the picture was taken.
A map showing current fall color on Sept. 12, 2023, with Minnesota's North Shore encircled. (ExploreFall.com)
ExploreFall, a new website that runs a high-resolution weather model to estimate where differing levels of autumn color appear, stepped into the fray, saying, "Lots of unbelievers in these comments! The North Shore's maple forests often peak in mid-September, so this is right on schedule." A local website confirmed that peak color was achieved on Sept. 22.
Indeed, an unusual combination of latitude and geography creates a peak of fall foliage colors in the North Shore region of northern Minnesota far before the peak occurs in New England and even ahead of the Rockies. According to ExploreFall's map, peak color was already present in that area on Sept. 12. Satellite photos from previous years show the brilliant autumn colors in the region before any others in the nation, like this one from Sept. 17, 2020.
So, yes, Jonathan's photo is real -- and he has a video to corroborate it.
A satellite photo shows fall color at Minnesota's North Shore on Sept. 12, 2020. (NASA/NOAA)
“Moose Mountain in Lutsen doesn’t disappoint,” X user @BBenzjonathan wrote when posting the video to social media.
A double rainbow stretched from one end of Manhattan to the other on September 11, 2023, with some photos showing the colors arching over One World Trade Center in New York City on the 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Video taken by Meghan Wallace shows an bird’s-eye view of the double rainbow arching over the Manhattan skyline -- and into the buildings below. Rainbows can be circular, when viewed from extremely high places such as mountains, drones, helicopters, and skyscrapers. Sharing the video on TikTok, Wallace wrote: “The most insane thing I’ve ever seen in real life.”
Typhoon Saola, known as Goring in the Philippines, was packing sustained winds of 130 mph offshore from Hong Kong as of 8 p.m. HKT on Sept. 1, down from 155 mph on Aug. 31, both qualifying it as a "Violent Typhoon" and the equivalent of a Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. Saola will continue to slowly drag along the coast of China this week with high winds and flooding rainfall, only making it to the island of Hainan by late Monday, the equivalent of a major hurricane taking three days to move up the coast of Florida. The Hong Kong Observatory issued a No. 10 hurricane signal, the highest warning under the city’s weather system and the first such warning from the observatory since 2018.
Pierre Markuse downloaded this photo of the extremely detailed eye of Typhoon Saola from the Copernicus Sentinel 2 satellite on Aug. 31, 2023. The image shows that a hurricane's eye is not always completely clear, even in the strongest storms. In fact, the eye of a stronger storm can be filled with a handful of "mesovortices" -- small-scale rotational features first extensively studied inside Hurricane Isabel's eye in 2003, and noted in satellite photos as early as 1994 in Hurricane Emilia. Two photos of the mesovortices shot from a reconnaissance plane on Sept. 1, are also shown in the photo gallery below.
Mesovortices are not the only exciting part of this satellite photo. Although Sentinel 2 does take high-resolution photos, artificial intelligence was used to improve the resolution of this photo. Markuse explained on Twitter, "I used a combination of Photoshop's new AI Super Resolution and Topaz Gigapixel AI, which both were definitely not trained for satellite images but can - at least sometimes - help to upscale images to better prepare them for printing or viewing on really big displays."
The Indianola, Oklahoma fire department responded to a call about a tree struck by lightning on the evening of Aug. 13, 2023. What they saw when they got there was a ghostly "hell tree" that was completely made of embers.
Most of the time, when a tree is struck by lightning, the bark is split from top to bottom, but the lightning exits safely through the ground. Sometimes, the lightning can set the inside of the tree on fire. Perhaps that is how this fire started; by this stage, it had consumed most of the tree.
Either way, trees, especially lone trees might keep you dry for a few minutes but they are not good lightning shelters. If a tree is struck and you're under it, you can be killed.
This photo may initially look like a "sideways rainbow," but what you're really seeing is the left side of a full-circle rainbow. You can also see a double rainbow faintly at left. Seeing a rainbow in 360 degrees isn't easy because you have to be above the horizon, with the sun -- and rain -- beneath you.
This can be achieved from the edge of a mountain, in a plane or helicopter, or, as photographer Michael Probst did, while viewing a rainbow from his drone on the outskirts of Frankfurt, Germany, on Aug. 6, 2023. A second, zoomed-in version of the rainbow is available in the gallery above.
After issuing a severe thunderstorm warning for the city, a forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Cheyenne, Wyoming, took a panoramic photo as the storm's shelf cloud overtook the building. In the background, the NEXRAD radar for Cheyenne stood sentinel, scanning the storm for information to assist meteorologists.
According to the NWS-Cheyenne website, the first Cheyenne Weather Office was established by the U.S. Signal Service in 1870. In 1883, the Weather Bureau of the United States began to utilize the office in Cheyenne. This new national government entity was established and approved by President Ulysses S. Grant to provide meteorological observations to military stations.
Fields of sunflowers are blossoming on farms and countrysides across Europe and North America, a sign that summer is halfway over. Photographers in Germany recently captured breathtaking images of fields of the tall, iconic flowers with colorful sunrises and dark storm clouds in the background. One photographer even managed to snap some photos of bumblebees hard at work collecting and spreading pollen from flower to flower.
“Sunflowers don’t require a lot of rain,” Mike Von Bergen told AccuWeather National Reporter Emmy Victor. Von Bergen owns a farm in northern Illinois where he grows 14 fields of sunflowers. This year, the towering flowers bloomed about a week behind schedule, and Von Bergen speculated that the delay could have been related to spells of Canadian wildfire smoke that impacted the region.
Sunflowers will remain in bloom throughout the remainder of summer and into the first half of autumn before the arrival of colder weather.
It’s one of the best times of year for flower lovers, as sunflower fields bloom across the country. AccuWeather’s Emmy Victor explains how farmers are feeling relieved after navigating weather challenges.
A summer monsoon sunset, with a faint rainbow visible on the right, as seen from Grand Canyon Village at Grand Canyon National Park (NPS)
The annual North American monsoon is underway, a time of year when thunderstorms become more prevalent across the Four Corners and Rocky Mountains. The monsoon season runs from June 15 through Sept. 30, and while the season has been off to a slow start this year, meteorologists and photographers alike are starting to see an uptick in thunderstorms.
Earlier this month, the National Park Service shared an image of a monsoonal thunderstorm seen from Grand Canyon Village, a popular tourist destination on the southern rim of the Gand Canyon. The national park is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and a colorful sunset amid a monsoonal thunderstorm enhanced the jaw-dropping view of the world-famous park. Clouds associated with the thunderstorm glowed in shades of pink and purple, while a veil of rain appeared yellow. A rainbow could also be seen to the right of the storm above the canyon’s rim.
As beautiful as it may be, the weather at the Grand Canyon can be dangerous. Temperatures in the canyon frequently exceed 100 degrees in June, July and August, which raises the risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke for folks who spend extended time hiking. Additionally, summertime thunderstorms can develop quickly and trigger lightning strikes and flash flooding that could impact areas miles away from the storm.
Layers of clouds cover North Africa. They have a swirl like appearance and are grouped over the surface. â?£(NASA)
When astronauts travel to the International Space Station, they spend months living on the celestial outpost that orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes. While scientific experiments are one of the top priorities, some astronauts like to take pictures of the Earth during their spare time. The photos they take are out of this world -- literally. Flying 250 miles above the Earth’s surface, they have a perspective of the weather that only a handful of humans have ever seen for themselves.
NASA recently shared one photo taken by an astronaut when the space station was over North Africa. The sun was low on the horizon, causing towering clouds to cast shadows that stretched over 100 miles. A thin layer of translucent clouds could also be seen glowing in shades of pink and gold.
Prolific amounts of rainfall triggered raging floodwaters that turned deadly in portions of India over the weekend as the country navigates its wettest time of the year: the monsoon season. More than two dozen people died due to flooding or mudslides on Sunday, July 9, Reuters reported.
The city of Chandigarh, located in Punjab, received more than 30 inches of rain over the course of 48 hours. In this photo, a man looks at a swollen Beas River following heavy rains in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, India. The Beas River runs from an elevation of over 14,000 feet down to sea-level.
As the full moon rose over San Francisco Bay on July 2, 2023, fog poured in around Mount Tamalpais, and Mill Valley, California, making for amazing photos. The California Parks Service confirms this fact, writing that the mountain is famous for its panoramic views of The Bay Area.
The fog that comes and goes on the Pacific Coast around San Francisco is so famous that it has its own Twitter accounts, "Karla" and "Karl the Fog." California fog even has its own season and routinely delays schools.
Houston Zoo animals are staying cool during the heat of the summer, according to a Houston Zoo blog on June 30, 2023 -- and that's a good thing! Afternoon temperatures in Houston haven't dropped below 96 degrees in the last two weeks, and have been as high as 100 degrees F, according to AccuWeather.
The blog explains: "The Zoo’s dedicated animal care teams are adding frozen summertime treats to the animal menu. In the Galápagos tortoise habitat, tortoises, shown in the second photo, enjoy a cool water spray that helps them keep comfortable."
"Other animals, like Claud the black bear, shown here," the blog continues, "keep cool by taking a splash in their refreshing pool. Black bears are curious creatures by nature and giving them a pool is for more than just play. Their animal care team offers food items in the water to help them beat the summer heat. In South America’s Pantanal, the Capybara family, shown in the third photo, also enjoys taking a swim. Capybaras are excellent swimmers and a semi-aquatic species."
Animals at the Houston Zoo in Houston, Texas, enjoyed some fun with water as the south-central United States heated up in late June, with temperatures rising over 100 degrees.
“I was at a wedding last weekend in Lake Tahoe and everyone was very intrigued by these unique cloud formations… they made us all hungry for some pancakes,” AccuWeather’s Mallory Lemieux said.
In fact, these lenticular clouds, most recently featured on this blog as Los Angeles residents were taken aback by these 'UFO clouds,' are called "stacked" when they appear as several repeating horizontal cloud decks, bringing definition to the atmosphere flow at different levels.
Click through to the gallery above to see a weather satellite photo of what these clouds looked like from above on June 18, 2023.
As Cyclone Biparjoy slowly approached India's west coast this week, local authorities prepared for the storm, which caused long periods of huge, crashing waves. Despite being far enough south to miss the storm's wind and rain, Mumbai was among the many cities and villages preparing for the storm's waves.
Over 100,000 people were evacuated from the coasts of India and Pakistan before the storm. Biparjoy was a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale at landfall and is the second-strongest cyclone on record to hit that region. High winds from the storm caused infrastructure damage, and heavy rains caused flooding in the coastal town of Mandvi.
See more photos in our Cyclone Biparjoy photo gallery.
Meteorologists at AccuWeather headquarters in State College, Pennsylvania, took to Twitter to post photos of what is colloquially called a "fire rainbow" on May 16, 2023.
The optical phenomenon is known to scientists as a circumhorizon arc and is created by sunlight reflecting off of ice crystals. To see this ice halo, the sun must be more than 58 degrees high in the sky, and high cirrus clouds or jet contrails must be present to bring this spectacular display to life.
A particularly vivid display of circumhorizon arcs was seen widely in North Carolina on April 15, Good Friday, 2022.
After a harsh, snowy winter, one of the most difficult roads to plow for the National Park Service is the "Going-to-the-sun Road," which leads to Logan Pass, Montana, not far from the Canadian border.
Snow removal crews start plowing the road in April, but the road doesn’t open until the summer. The final section to plow is called "The Big Drift" where the snow can be 80 feet deep. On May 25, 2023, Glacier National Park shared photos of what employees are dealing with on Twitter.
Although a warm spring is helping, there is no estimated opening date yet; the record latest was July 13, in 2022, 2020, and 2011. You can find out more information about Logan Pass on the National Park Service's podcast "Headwaters."
Chris Fukuda took a stunningly vivid photo of the sun rising over the Capitol building on May 11, 2023. Nearly a week later, the sunrise over the Capitol was still particularly colorful, as illustrated by another picture snapped by "Jeannie in D.C." on Twitter.
Before most people woke up on May 17, one man was outside in Bellevue, Washington with his cameras and telescopes. Steve Rice expected to film Jupiter passing behind the moon in an astronomical event called an occultation but thought he might miss it due to the thick smoke. At the last minute, he was able to capture the event, however faintly.
On the same morning, the National Weather Service in Seattle posted photos of a "surreal" red sun rising from a smoky landscape-- something you might liken to a "Mars sunset" -- except sunsets are actually blue on the Red Planet.
The sunset also lit up billowing smoke from the wildfires raging across Alberta on May 9. As of May 17, there were 27 fires labeled as "out of control"of a total more than 91 infernos, according to Reuters. More than 30,000 people were evacuated in the region.
Check out all of the photos, and a satellite image showing the smoke, in the gallery above.
Dave LaFaive stepped out on his porch in Plymouth, Indiana, on May 7, 2023, and saw something incredible. Pouches of rain clouds hung from the sky, distended and stretched from one side of the horizon to the other. What he saw is something we've featured several times in this photo blog: mammatus clouds.
While they may look rather threatening, mammatus clouds aren’t necessarily indicators that severe weather is about to unfold. Unlike most clouds created by rising air, the bulbous mammatus clouds typically develop after a thunderstorm has cleared and air sinks.
Plymouth, located south of South Bend, Indiana, was home to the first retail outlet of the Montgomery Ward company in 1926.
Key West, Florida, residents were treated to a rare and complex display of ice halos and other atmospheric phenomena on of May 2, 2023. The local National Weather Service office posted on Twitter: "Who else has been admiring the incredible halo/arc/sun dog display this evening?"
In addition to a 22-degree halo adorned with sundogs (parhelia), a more rare 46-degree halo was also present, as was an upper tangent arc, a Parry arc, and a circumzenithal arc. Such complex displays are most commonly seen in winter at high latitudes, but can be spotted anywhere on Earth at any time of year. Conditions only require widespread cirrostratus clouds made of ice crystals to be present high in the sky.
A similar but more impressive display of ice halos in Germany was previously illustrated in this blog on Dec. 22, 2022.
This photo of a sunset, captured on March 19, 2023, looks like something from a sci-fi movie. The sun is setting behind Wat Saket Ratcha Wora Maha Wihan, a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thailand (Wat Saket, for short). The temple is on "Golden Mount," the only hill in the city.
Bangkok has a wet and hot climate, with low temperatures ranging from 72 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (22-27 Celsius) on average, and high temperatures between 88 and 95 F (31-35 C). April is the hottest month, while September is the wettest. Thailand is affected by heavy rain from tropical cyclones that typically move over the country as weaker storms from the east. In 2011, severe flooding from Tropical Storm Nock-ten affected several historical sites.
The National Park Service announced earlier this month that they are delaying the Grand Canyon National Park's "North Rim" seasonal opening, after 250 inches of snow this winter, twice what the location typically receives. The extra time is needed to plow the road leading to the North Rim, repair and rebuild trails, and reopen visitor facilities.
At 8,000 feet elevation, the North Rim is described as "the other side" of the Grand Canyon and is only visited by 10 percent of park visitors.
This isn't the first time that the park has been featured in this photo blog. A photo of snow at the Grand Canyon was the first post in this blog on April 16, 2021, and a lightning pic was also featured on Nov. 4, 2021.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort in California is living up to its name. At the mountain’s summit, which is located at an elevation of 11,053 feet, a record season total of 882 inches (74 feet) of snow has been measured this winter.
At the base of that mountain sits Mammoth Lakes, where the snow has buried dozens of million-dollar homes and condominiums two to three stories high. This winter, it has taken an army of volunteers not only to dig out the driveways but also to remove the snow from roofs to avoid collapse.
The ski slopes at Mammoth have had to close some days this winter when roads closed or snow buried ski lifts, but they are open again and plan to stay open longer than they ever have, likely through July.
In this photo taken March 22, 2023, a visitor takes a picture on their smartphone of a brilliant sunset with beautiful cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. The peak bloom date for the blossoms occurred the next day.
Since online records began in 2004, it was the third-earliest peak bloom, according to National Park Service website, which also says that overall peak bloom dates have ranged between March 15 (1990) and April 18 (1958). A gift to the United States from the major of Tokyo, Japan in 1912, 1,800 Yoshino Cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) trees have blossomed in D.C. since that year.
Location, location, location, or so the saying goes. Standing out amongst a sea of snow photos this winter, the location that made this snow photo special was a drone camera, several hundred feet over a park maze in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, on a wintry March 8, 2023.
Mazes are a worldwide phenomenon, but according to Smithsonian Magazine, they served a specific purpose in Germany. Young men would traverse labyrinths as a rite of passage to becoming an adult.
Gelsenkirchen is known as the "blue city" due to the color's prominence local architecture and artwork. The city has weather similar to Vancouver, Canada.
Yosemite National Park, like many other mountain locations in California, has seen a lot of snow this season. Nearby Mammoth Mountain Ski Area reported a total of 569 inches as of March 10, 2023. That's over 46 feet! There have been a lot of impressive photos circulating in the media showing snow-buried buildings, and we've added one of those from the park to the slideshow above.
But the snowy landscape can also be breathtakingly artistic and even serene, as demonstrated by this picture taken by a National Park Service road crew reopening the highway after the latest round of snowfall ending March 1, 2023. The park's mountains are shrouded in snow but blue skies prevail. Icicles hang from the tunnel's entrance, and a cleared road gives a hint that springlike weather will eventually return.
Rising up more than 2,400 feet above Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the "Christ the Redeemer" reinforced-concrete statue was built to withstand 124-mph winds and has weathered many a storm. Lightning rods on the head and arms direct frequent strikes to the ground, but lightning still caused significant damage in 2008 and 2014.
On Feb. 10, 2023, photographer Fernando Braga was at the right place at the right time and captured amazing pictures of a lightning strike hitting the top of the statue. Braga said on Instagram that he had "lots and lots of frustrating attempts" to catch this shot before finally being successful. He titled the photo "Divine Lightning."
Major restoration of the statue was performed in 2021, the 90th anniversary of its completion. Unveiled in 1931, the cultural icon was awarded "New Seven Wonders of the World" status in 2000. A photo from the top of the statue was featured previously in this blog.
Dave DiCello, a professional photographer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, snapped this photo of an enchanting sunrise on Feb. 2, also known as Groundhog Day 2023. He has taken thousands of photos of the Steel City in various kinds of weather, including lightning, fog, rainbows, and the four seasons.
DiCello said on Twitter: "Happy Groundhog Day everyone. Is that a thing? Do people say that? Either way, Phil saw his shadow which means six more weeks of winter, but if sunrises like today's in Pittsburgh come with that, I'm fine with it. Just enough color to make for a beautiful start to the day."
Pittsburgh's climate is fairly temperate, but it can occasionally get below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, or above 100 F. Record temperatures range from 22 degrees below zero in 1994 to a record high of 103 F, set most recently in 1988.
Photographer Ash O'Malley from Toronto, Ontario, Canada tried many times to get this shot of foggy trees in the snow, but it required several important ingredients that she had to wait for. "One of my favourite images," she said on Twitter on Jan. 3, 2022. "It took numerous visits to get the fresh snow, sunlight and shadows all at once. Persistence pays off."
The icing on the cake is the fog, which makes the image look otherworldly, especially with the larger tree standing out against the background.
Toronto, the largest city in Canada, receives about 43 inches of snow each season, similar to southern New England or the Poconos of Pennsylvania.
Ski resorts were grateful for hundreds of inches of snow provided by a series of atmospheric rivers that affected the West Coast of the U.S. and Canada in late December 2022. But the moisture-laden air also caused problems. Big White Ski Resort in British Columbia, Canada, took to Facebook on Dec. 28 to explain why their "Powder Chair" ski lift was closed the day before. The accompanying photo showed the ski lift encased in at least half a foot of what meteorologists call "rime ice."
Rime ice forms when tiny, near-freezing water droplets, usually from thick fog and other clouds, attach to the surface of a below-freezing object and turn into ice immediately on contact. It is most common on exposed mountain tops. It may look similar to hoarfrost, but is much more solid, heavy, and difficult to remove.
"Anyone that’s been in the resort knows that the weather over the past few days has been unpredictable and unseasonable," its Facebook page wrote. "Each morning, our lift mechanics and operators start at approximately 6:30 a.m. to inspect and go through start-up procedures. We take into account wind direction, speed, humidity, and temperature. This is a manual procedure and one that takes an extraordinary amount of experience and safety protocols."
Dec. 27 was one of Big White's busiest days of the season, and it came at the end of one of the atmospheric rivers. "Over the past few days," the post explained to their customers, "we’ve had a tremendous problem with rime ice (blue ice) encasing our chairlifts, haul cables, and running wheels, which are all designed to be deiced before the lift can start. In the last 24 hours, we had a major lift closure on the Powder Chair due to ice falling on two safety pins simultaneously."
That resulted in the ski lift being evacuated, which took nearly an hour, and guests who had arrived to ride the lift had to be turned back. However, some commenters on the Facebook post thanked them for the detailed diatribe to explain what went wrong.
In August 2022, Mitch Crispe and his husband decided to stop at one of their favorite trails in Del Norte Coast Redwood State Park, California, on their way to a birthday party.
"When conditions are right," Crispe explained, "You can get these gorgeous rays of sun that shine down through a layer of fog that is slowly burning off. We hadn't had these conditions during previous visits, but this time things lined up perfectly!"
Crispe, a fitness trainer and photographer from Canada but living in California, took hundreds of photos and videos that day but admits this one really stood out.
According to a popular hiking website, the largest Redwood trees on this trail are found at the top of the ridge. Unlike Redwoods found in lower elevations, the trees here help catch fog that streams off the Pacific Ocean, giving them the ability to grow into giants.
Photographer Matthias Schrader took multiple stunning photos of an orange sunset behind wind turbines near Dardesheim, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany on Aug. 7, 2022.
The Washington Post said on Jan. 11, 2022 that Germany suffered from a 40 percent increase in wind energy manufacturing costs last year, and building a turbine can take more than 7 years. These issues are keeping the country from achieving a goal to produce 80 percent of its energy from wind by 2030. As of 2021, wind turbine production had fallen slightly to 22.6 percent of energy generation, according to Wind Power Monthly.
More than 28,000 onshore wind turbines are installed in Germany, according to Bundesverband WindEnergie. In comparison, the U.S. Wind Turbine Database says that over 72,000 wind turbines are currently installed in the United States, accounting for 9 percent of the country's power generation.
Just two days after the textbook example of ice halos previously posted to this photo blog, Photographers from the Associated Press used drone cameras to showcase the snow-covered trees at three different locations in Germany: the Taunus region near Frankfurt, Braunlage, and Wernigerode.
The first photo shows the frozen trees basked in orange and purple hues as the sun rises over the frigid landscape. The other two photos show mountain roads snaking through snowy forests.
Homburg, located in the Taunus region, became an international tourist destination in the 19th century because of its mineral hot springs, which were said to cure the ill.
"This might have been one of the prettiest winter pictures I've ever taken," Wouter van Bernebeek, a storm chaser from the Netherlands said on Facebook on Dec.11, 2022. The photo, showing an icy winter wonderland in the Sauerland region of Germany, also contains a wide breadth of great examples of atmospheric optics.
Among them, a 46-degree halo, a 22-degree halo with parhelion (sun dogs), and an upper tangent arc. Ice crystals help these types of optical phenomena take shape in the atmosphere. On this particular day, temperatures ranged from 5 to 14 F (10 degrees C below zero to 15 degrees C below zero). Van Bernebeek confirmed there was frozen fog on trees and "ice needles," also known as "diamond dust" in the air on the day the photo was taken. He uploaded additional amazing photos and videos from that day to his YouTube channel.
Sauerland is an expansive tourist area in Germany, but is sparsely populated. There are over 19,000 miles (30,000 km) of hiking trails and many resorts that attract visitors year-round.
Rachel Gordon was treated to a textbook display of what meteorologists call Kelvin-Helmholtz wave clouds over the Big Horn Mountains near Sheridan, Wyoming, on Dec. 6, 2022. She told AccuWeather: "We've never seen them to that extent before. But there are quite a few unique clouds here [in Wyoming]. They just reminded me of ocean waves and I was in awe."
Kelvin-Helmholtz waves occur in unstable atmospheric conditions when air varies in density due to different temperatures. These waves in the sky are formed similarly to ocean waves, with high winds blowing over a stable layer of air, sculpting the flat clouds into wave formations. As air moves over them, the waves continually crest in the same place. They can be found almost anywhere, but rarely ever appear. Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds can also cause trouble for pilots, indicating turbulence in the air.
These waves in the sky are formed similarly to ocean waves, with high winds blowing over the water, sculpting the flat water into wave formations, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.
A pulse thundershower showing a rare example of a cumulus congestus cloud as seen from a beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama, on July 17, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Rick Geiss)
“I guess I’m kind of famous,” says Rick Geiss. He and his wife, Suzy, of Gulf Shores, Alabama, were at the beach with friends who were in town visiting one hot summer day when they decided to step away for a few minutes to grab some lunch. Lo and behold, when they came back – there it was: A towering cloud mushroomed, right before their eyes. Rick grabbed his cell and quickly snapped some shots. The resulting image was a captivating view of Mother Nature in full force.
Many aptly referred to the formation as a “mushroom cloud,” others dubbed it a “volcano cloud” due to its fluffy cone shape. Harry Potter fans thought it bore a striking resemblance to the sorting hat, like one last month in southwest Florida. Hmm. “But I called it a Christmas tree cloud,” Rick mused.
Luckily, he acted swiftly in snapping the photo. “It didn’t last very long. Rain was falling out of the bottom and then it dissipated in like 10 minutes,” Rick told AccuWeather in a recent interview. He posted the “Christmas tree” on his Facebook page and then forgot all about the amazing shot. Until, two years later. Rick was watching the local weather report on TV when they asked viewers for their favorite weather photos. And, as Rick aptly noted, “the rest is history.” Kansas weather broadcaster Jake Dunne, at the time a meteorologist for WPMI-TV15 in Mobile, Alabama, posted Rick’s photo on Twitter and it went viral. “Quite possibly the best example of a mushroom cloud I have ever seen!” Dunne tweeted.
“It is very unique,” Rick acknowledged. Such short-lived, single-cell or pulse thundershowers pop up during hot, humid days and can last as long as 30 minutes, according to the National Weather Service. “Generally, clouds don’t rise straight up because atmospheric winds tilt storms in, or the storm’s movement shears clouds off the front or drags them behind. This was a rare example of cumulus congestus cloud, as if it had been drawn for a textbook,” said Jesse Ferrell, AccuWeather senior weather editor. Photos of similar cloud formations have since sprung up, like this one taken on Memorial Day weekend 2014 of a rainbow and rainshaft in Carr, Colorado.
Most people have only seen the northern lights in photos, but viewing them in person is a different experience. Markus Varik, a veteran aurora guide, isn't surprised by much about the lights, but what he saw on the night of October 2, 2022, over Tromso, Norway took his breath away.
Varik told SpaceWeather.com, "I have been guiding Aurora tours full-time for the past 10 years. I was thinking, 'I have pretty much seen it all.' Little did I know, there was a surprise waiting for me. We were fortunate to head out early for an aurora chase and due to that, we were able to witness some of the most intense pinks I have ever seen. It was so obviously pink to the naked eye, we were all just stunned."
"The incredible thing about this nitrogen-fueled purple [aurora color]," Varik explained on Facebook, "is [that] it looks the same to the naked eye compared to the green, which is almost always stronger inside the camera. Notice how even some of the clouds are turned purple by [the] amazingly colorful auroras!"
Photographers flocked to the Harz Mountains in central Germany on Oct. 23 to capture breathtaking images of the fall foliage at its peak, but the colorful mountainsides were seemingly cut in half. Images taken from the sky revealed a sharp divide between the vibrant foliage and a patch of dead trees, a scene that has become prevalent in parts of Germany in recent years in part due to the weather.
Hot and dry summers over the past five years have contributed to a boom in the bark beetle population. The tiny critter is less than one-quarter of an inch long, but in enough numbers, they can infest and kill entire groves of trees. Over 500,000 hectares of forest have been decimated by the beetles since 2018, according to EuroNews. Spruce trees are more susceptible to infestation than other trees, but the bark beetle can still impact other species of trees.
“We have large-scale forest dieback. It is a catastrophe,” Bavarian State Forest Office Agent Matthias Lindig said. “What was built up through generations, was destroyed in just three years.” The increase in dead trees due to the bark beetle has contributed to the uptick in wildfire activity across Germany during the summer months.
It was a foggy fall morning in New York City on Tuesday, Oct. 25, with dense fog shrouding the city skyline. The fog was so thick that people could not see across the East River, making the Brooklyn Bridge look like it was disappearing into the clouds. This photograph of the Brooklyn Bridge stretching into the fog was taken in Dumbo, New York, only 2,000 feet away from Lower Manhattan. Most days, people in Dumbo can easily see Manhattan on the other side of the East River.
The fog created more than just mesmerizing sights. Over 300 flights were delayed at LaGuardia Airport, according to FlightAware, with airport officials blaming the weather for the travel disruptions. Visibility at the airport was less than one-quarter of a mile for more than five hours, including the entirety of the Tuesday morning commute. Dense fog also impacted travel in other cities along the Interstate-95 corridor, including in Boston, where near-zero visibility was contributing to flight delays at Boston Logan International Airport. The fog finally lifted around lunchtime, as seen on the Brooklyn Bridge Earthcam and AccuWeather satellite.
The Brooklyn neighborhood's name does not come from the movie elephant. It is an acronym for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass" -- a moniker given to the area just before the year 2000. Previously, it had been known variously as Rapailie, Olympia, and Walentasville. Dumbo has the highest concentration of tech firms by neighborhood in New York City.
AccuWeather Business Development Director and Mayor of State College, Pennsylvania, Ezra Nanes captured a brilliant double rainbow over AccuWeather's headquarters on the evening of Oct. 19, 2022. The sun also highlighted the colorful autumn leaves as the cold rain ended. It was a fitting tribute to AccuWeather's 60th Anniversary, which is being celebrated this fall.
Since its founding by Dr. Joel N. Myers in 1962, AccuWeather has revolutionized the field of weather forecasting and its extraordinary forecast accuracy has been responsible for saving tens of thousands of lives in the United States and more around the world.
On the night of Sep. 10, 2022, Nicolas Escurat took a long-exposure photo with his DSLR camera and captured something people rarely see -- because its lifespan is measured in hundredths of seconds. The brilliant, red electrical display appeared over a thunderstorm in France and vanished as quickly as it formed.
It wasn't until the late 1980s that scientists aboard Space Shuttle Discovery confirmed the new atmospheric phenomenon. Known as "sprites," the red lights are one of several TLEs (Transient Luminous Events) that occur in the mesosphere, far above an active thunderstorm, triggered by powerful lightning.
Two weeks earlier, on Aug. 26, 2022, in the Czech Republic, Daniel ŠÄerba captured a similar photo. The two photos illustrate how widely different the sprite displays can be.
Persistence, patience, and the right equipment are required to photograph this phenomenon. ŠÄerba, who has been photographing sprites for eight years, told AccuWeather via Facebook that he took 4500 photos that night, only to catch 14 pics actually showing sprites. "I mainly use modified Sony A7S cameras with active sensor cooling and the IR filter removed, to capture the color spectrum more extensively," he explained.
After reports of strange clouds hovering amongst skyscrapers in the Windy City on August 5, 2022, Chicago's veteran meteorologist Tom Skilling took to Facebook to explain:
"Anyone who has lived in or traveled through Chicago over the years has watched on occasion as clouds develop over parts of the downtown area," Skilling said. "They're localized and fascinating to view. It's an interesting process and the cloud that forms can appear to hover there for a time."
"The clouds are formed by two meteorological processes: orographic lifting, and wind convergence. The former is most commonly observed with lenticular clouds, which form when air rises over mountains, cooling and condensing. The cloud continually regenerates over the mountain as the air moves through it.
The tall buildings of the Chicago skyline can produce orographic lift as well, with help from wind converging on the shoreline buildings and being forced upwards. Skilling put it this way: “Winds off Lake Michigan can do the darndest things when in contact with land and buildings.”
The phenomenon is interesting to see from the ground but even more mesmerizing from the Earthcam webcam located in Skydeck Chicago at the top of Willis Tower, as a timelapse from July 18, 2022 shows.
Did you know? The Willis Tower is the skyscraper most frequently struck by lightning, according to a study performed by AccuWeather in 2021.
Fog moves over Chicago, Illinois on July 18, 2022 in this timelapse from the Earthcam webcam located in Skydeck Chicago at the top of Willis Tower.
An AtlasV rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 6:29 a.m. EDT on Aug. 4, 2022. Although it was dark outside when the rocket blasted off, it eventually reached sunlight, which turned its vapor contrail from blue to purple, then orange, and finally yellow as it moved higher above the Earth.
This particular rocket was carrying the sixth and final SBIRS satellite into orbit for the U.S. Department of Defense's Space Force. The Space Based-Infrared System satellite constellation is "a critical constellation of missile warning satellites that expands the U.S. military’s situational awareness on the battlefield and beyond," according to the United Launch Alliance, which sent the rocket into space.
Meteorologists always recommend the window seat on an airplane, because you never know what fascinating weather phenomena you might see. Meteorologist Kody Wilson was flying home to Colorado on July 22, 2022, when he got an amazing view of a thunderstorm.
Wilson told AccuWeather, "I was on a United flight from Orlando to Denver. I was monitoring storms on our approach, and our flight path took us directly to the south of a rotating mesocyclone. Right place, right time!"
"Scored an absolute JACKPOT on my flight to Denver this evening," Wilson tweeted. "Tornadic supercell over SW Kansas at 34,000 feet."
Seeing a thunderstorm on the ground can be spectacular, but seeing a storm from the air can reveal important mechanisms you can't always view, because of buildings, trees or hills. An illustration of a supercell thunderstorm by the NOAA Storm Prediction Center, which also uses an aerial photo, points out the parts of the storm that you can see in Wilson's photos. High- level winds carry the thunderstorm's anvil cloud away from its updraft and rotating mid-level mesocyclone, while converging low-level winds bring fresh energy into the storm at the Earth's surface.
Glacier Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road - the only highway that crosses through the entire national park - winds 50 miles through the Montana mountains, peaking at Logan Pass, which is 6,466 feet above sea level. Due to heavy snow near the top, higher parts of the road are only typically open from June to October. On June 24, the National Park Service reported that continued snowstorms had delayed the clearing of the road.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road finally reopened on July 13, 2022, tying the record latest opening date set in 2011 due to excess snow (and 2020 due to COVID). Although the highway was accessible, the National Park Service said that the nearby Highline trail could not reopen yet, due to "extreme and life-threatening danger" from "snow and high-angled snowfields."
While the road is no longer clogged with snow, some parkgoers will still not be able to take the breathtaking journey. Starting this year, Glacier National Park instituted a reservation system for the road to reduce congestion on Going-to-the-Sun, one of the most popular roads in the entire National Park system.
Meteorologist Dustin Guy was pulling a night shift at the National Weather Service office in Seattle, Washington on the first day of July when he saw unusual, glowing clouds in the nighttime sky.
As AccuWeather reminded viewers in May, summer is the best time to find this phenomenon, known as "Noctilucent" clouds, which are most commonly viewed at Arctic latitudes. Seeing them as far south as the northern United States is a rare treat and the NWS said on Twitter that this was the best display in years, adding, "What a way to start July!"
Also called "electric blue clouds," Noctilucent clouds are formed approximately 50 miles above the Earth's surface, nearly touching the edge of space, while most clouds are found at under 10 miles up. Like all high-level clouds, Noctilucent clouds are made up of ice crystals, but these crystals form on dust particles left behind by passing meteors when temperatures are very low. Despite summer being warmer on the ground, the coldest conditions of the year in the cloud's high altitudes take place during the season, and are the impetus for the cloud's formation.
Highlighting one of the spectacular entries we've received so far, lightning illuminates the night sky in Chongqing, China, in this amazing capture by erynnnyesv. The photographer says that the city was under a rare "category 8 gale" warning on April 13, 2022, when thunderstorms sliced through the area from west to east.
Chongqing is an inland city of more than 31 million people situated at the junction of the Jialing and Yangtze rivers. High temperatures can reach well over 100 degrees F (38 C) in August, and it's very rare for the temperature to dip below freezing (0 C), even in the winter. More than 100 days each year, Chongqing is surrounded by mist, giving it the nickname "Fog City."
Residents emerging from their homes at sunset in Ada, Oklahoma, on the evening of May 15 were treated to a scary but beautiful sight. In what appears to be tightly-packed cotton balls hanging from above, these menacing-looking clouds -- called mammatus clouds -- filled the sky in an incredible display from Mother Nature.
Wes Edens snapped these pictures about 9 miles west of Ada, the first photo backlit by lightning. Social media also lit up with additional photos and videos showing the never-ending pink and purple pouches.
While they may look rather threatening, mammatus clouds aren’t necessarily an indicator that severe weather is about to unfold. Unlike most clouds that are created by rising air, the bulbous mammatus clouds typically develop after a thunderstorm has cleared and air sinks. This isn't the first time mammatus clouds have been featured on this blog. Scroll down to see more.
The town of Ada was made famous by John Grisham's book The Innocent Man in 2006, which was turned into a Netflix series in 2018.