Weather Photographer of the Year 2021: Vote Now!
AccuWeather has once again partnered with the Royal Meteorological Society on their "Weather Photographer of the Year" 2021 contest. The shortlist of photos and public voting have been announced. The judges (including yours truly) have rendered their decisions, reducing the more than 8,900 photographs submitted by over 3,300 photographers from 114 countries down to just three. The official winners will be announced on Oct. 16. Meanwhile, you can be the judge by voting for your favorite!
To see the shortlisted images and vote for your favorite, visit photocrowd.com/wpotyvote. The vote closes on Sept. 23, 2021, at midnight (BST). This year, we really received some amazing and unique photos: dramatic clouds, majestic halos and rainbows, rare lightning sprites, floods and magical mists. In this blog, I'll highlight a few (random) photos from this year's shortlist below and tell the stories behind them. (To see the stories behind all the finalists shown in the collage above, click through to the WPOTY website). First up is an image that's "out of this world."
"Sprite Fireworks" by Nathan Myhrvold, shortlisted for Weather Photographer of the Year 2021.
For decades, pilots had reported large flashes of light extending high above thunderstorms, but their reports were largely discounted by the scientific community until the late 1980s when the existence of a new atmospheric phenomenon was confirmed by instruments flying aboard Space Shuttle Discovery.
On June 9, 2021, macro snowflake photographer and pizza expert Nathan Myhrvold was on the hunt to photograph this rare atmospheric disturbance near Lake DeSmet in Wyoming when he snapped an amazing picture. Click here to read more about "Sprite Fireworks" in our "Weather Permitting" photo blog entitled "Pizza expert documents once-ridiculed atmospheric phenomenon."
"Rainbow Clouds," by Gesang Jimei, shortlisted for Weather Photographer of the Year 2021.
For some atmospheric optical phenomena, there are hundreds of photos capturing it, but few that give a clear view of the event. This photo is one of the lucky few.
Gesang Jimei grabbed his camera when he noticed this colorful cloud appear over the Sanding Temple in the mountains of Tibet. The beautiful colors lasted for more than 20 minutes and reminded him of a phoenix.
This optical phenomenon is called a "circumhorizontal arc" and is created by sunlight reflecting off ice crystals. To see a circumhorizontal arc, the sun needs to be more than 58 degrees high in the sky, and high cirrus clouds must be present. The hexagonal, plate-shaped ice crystals inside the cirrus clouds also need to be aligned horizontally, so that the light entering through the vertical side of the crystals refracts (bends) and exits through the horizontal bottom. This disperses the light into the seven colors of the spectrum, similar to what we see in a rainbow. In countries north and south of 56 degrees latitude, circumhorizontal arcs can never be seen because the sun is always lower than 56.
"Galaxy of Ice" by Ian Wade, shortlisted for Weather Photographer of the Year 2021.
This is an amazing closeup of a common phenomenon that was brought to life by the right angle of sunlight.
Following a recent cold spell in Brislington, Bristol, UK, when the air temperature dropped below freezing, Ian Wade headed out into his back garden to see if there were any photo opportunities. Luckily, he soon spotted these amazing shapes and forms in some ice in his pond at sunrise, reminding him of a galaxy bursting with colors and millions of stars and planets. Nature imitates nature!
The presence and number of bubbles in freshwater ice are determined by how much gas and minute particles are in the water, as well as how quickly the water has frozen. Typically, the quicker it freezes, the larger the number and size of the bubbles. To form clear ice without bubbles, you need very low freezing rates or the water to be agitated (e.g. by the wind).
"Sun Showers" by Calvin Downes, shortlisted for Weather Photographer of the Year 2021.
I prefer to call this one "Sheepish Rainbow" because this image just wouldn't be the same without the animal. The composition is wonderful and the slices of rainbow lend an ethereal feel.
Calvin Downes experienced a classic case of sunshine and showers on the Isle of Skye in October 2019. As the sun’s rays shone through the clouds over the Quiraing, Calvin’s camera captured a truncated rainbow of colors shining directly on a sheep. He had to be quick to catch the light shining on what he called "God’s chosen lamb" before too many raindrops gathered on the lens.
Showers come from convective clouds, such as cumulus or cumulonimbus. They tend to be short-lived and localized and can be intense. However, showers are often hit-or-miss, making them tricky to forecast. It can be likened to boiling a pan of water: You know that bubbles will form, but you can’t predict exactly where and when the bubbles will pop up.
As well as the term sunshower, people around the world have their own expressions for rain and sunshine at the same time. In South Africa, it’s known as a “monkey’s wedding,” in Poland, “the witch is making butter” and in Spain, “the rabbits are giving birth”.
"Portrait in a Boat" by Evgeny Borisov, shortlisted for Weather Photographer of the Year 2021.
I love photos that make you do a double-take, wondering what they are. This is one of those photos, and again, as above, nature imitates nature, fooling your mind into thinking, at first glance, it's some sort of plant, but it's another trick of perspective thanks to a drone.
Evgeny Borisov took this "self-portrait" using a quadcopter in the Altai Republic of Russia. To Evgeny, the uniqueness of the photo lies in his experience of the weather behind the lens – it changed so significantly in the time he was there that he felt the seasons shifted not only between days but over just a few hours.
To capture this shot, he waited for the first snow to fall, which then covered the ice on the lake like a white blanket, leaving areas of open water as vivid streaks in the white.
Have you ever wondered why a lake freezes from the top down? The maximum density of water occurs at 4 degrees Celsius. Above that temperature, the surface water cools, becomes more dense and sinks, replaced by warmer water from below. Once the majority of the lake is 4 degrees, further cooling on the surface forms a less dense layer of cold water at the top, stopping the circulation. Cooling then becomes more concentrated at the top as the surface reached freezing, 0 degrees Celsius.
In just a couple of hours after taking this photo, Evgeny said the whole lake was covered with white snow and winter came into its own.
"Foggy Bridge" by Itay Kaplan, shortlisted for Weather Photographer of the Year 2021.
Admit it, you weren't sure what this picture was showing, as you were scrolling down, were you? Another photo that tricks and delights the brain is not what it seems at first.
The Newport Transporter bridge crosses the River Usk in Newport, South East Wales, United Kingdom, and is essentially a suspended ferry. For a number of years, Itay waited for foggy conditions to surround the bridge, and in January 2021, that day finally came. Itay initially used his drone to track the movement of the fog before then setting up his camera to capture his image once the fog had thickened.
Put simply, fog is a cloud at ground level that is thick enough to reduce the surface visibility to less than 1 km. A collection of tiny liquid water droplets, fog usually contains up to 0.5 ml of water within each cubic meter of air. This means that if you concentrated the water from an area of fog filling an entire Olympic swimming pool, you would only be left with around 1.25 liters of water. Different types of fog are classified according to their formation, with radiation fog, advection fog, upslope fog and evaporation fog all common in the U.K. and the United States.Report a Typo