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Fire Tornados

While not as mysterious as some of the other entries you’ll see on this list, fire tornadoes are among the most badass examples of extreme weather... proof that Mother Nature remembers her younger days and still likes to get crazy from time to time. When wildfire meets tornado, the fire and the fuel can go airborne, creating a swirling vortex of pure, lethal awesomeness. Naturally the high winds can help spread fire, help it burn and make it unpredictable, so you should probably stick to observing them via YouTube for now.


Thunder and lightning storms are a hallmark of summer in many areas of the world, but the conditions that produce them are rarely found in winter months. But every once in a while that norm goes right out the window. The right humidity, air instability and updrafts, as well as the dampening effect of snowfall generally make thundersnow a once-in-a-lifetime event to witness, even for seasoned professionals.

Earthquake Light

The exact cause of the shimmering lights that sometimes appear before some heavy seismic activities is currently unknown. It was never properly documented until recently, and was therefore treated as something of a myth and has still never been directly verified by in a controlled experiment either. The new abundance of cameras in the kinds of places that experience serious earthquakes has lead to more documentation. Radon, magnetic fields, ionosphere disruption, magical leprechauns or electric fields from quartz crystals have all been suggested as possible causes.

Upper Atmosphere Lightning

Four distinct phenomena for the price of one! Lightning itself can be difficult to study, given our poor understanding of its causes and the fact it only makes split second appearances. However, at least four additional, mysterious examples of electrical discharges have been observed higher in the atmosphere during storm events: sprites, jets, halos and elves. Sprites are reddish-orange or greenish-blue discharges 50-90 miles above the surface that vary in appearance with arching tendrils and branches.
Jets, often blue jets, are cones that are emitted from the top of certain storm clouds 25-30 miles above the surface. Halos are... well... halo-shaped emissions, often associated with sprites. Elves consist of a flat, eerie glow that expands to about 250 miles in diameter, around 60 miles above the surface, usually reddish in color. Naturally, all of these marvels exist for milliseconds.

Naga Fireballs

A favorite of conspiracy theorists and alien enthusiasts, the Naga Fireballs traditionally appear at the Mekong River in Thailand and Laos, usually during the Buddhist Lent in late October or thereabout, as well as May and other times of the year. The small fireballs mysteriously launch over 100 feet in the air, though the source is currently unknown. Debate continues over whether a surreptitious human ruse is actually at play, or if one of numerous theories of natural mechanisms, such as methane escaping from the river bottom, are correct.

Animal Rain

Some types of weather are freaky on a Biblical level. The occurrence of raining animals has been documented for a long time, but remained intertwined with myth and hearsay. In fact, it does happen on rare occasion. The animals cited as falling from the heavens are usually frogs or fish, which jives with the proposed explanation. Water spouts or tornadoes may suck up entire ponds, including both the water and the inhabitants, and bring them high into the atmosphere. When the weather calms, the critters are overtaken by gravity and are dropped back to the ground. Some cases report living animals, suggesting only brief flights, while others have dead, smashed or frozen animal-nauts, which indicates longer, higher trips.

St. Elmo’s Fire

While the phenomenon has been observed for some time, we’ve not understood the science behind St. Elmo’s fire until more recently... the most important part being that it isn’t fire at all. The glow associated with objects passing through charged air is actually plasma: very high energy matter. The bluish-purple color is due to our high nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere, which makes it easily visible when planes and other ships with sections that come to a point pass through high voltage airspace. The cause and proliferation of crappy Brat Pack movies is still poorly understood.

Green Flash

Not the lovechild of the Green Lantern and the Flash, though almost as hard to witness. Even though you’ve probably taken the time to see a couple of sunsets in your life, possibly while embracing your lover on the beach or fighting your arch-nemesis on a mountain, you probably weren’t paying close enough attention to see a green flash. Not that we blame you, they’ve told us we’re not supposed to stare into the sun since grade school. But as the sun sets, light refraction occurs between the thin air higher up and the denser air closer to the surface. Since green-blue light curves more, you can sometimes see a flash just after the sun disappears over the horizon as those last rays curve to your eye. Some places are more obvious than others, so try not to burn your eyes out looking for it.

Ball Lightning

Ball Lightning is a scarcely seen phenomenon where balls of electricity crackle for up to minutes at a time. It was considered a hoax for a long time but new observations and theories have lead to a scientific double-take. Even nerd hero Nikola Tesla took at crack at the concept from time to time. As such, a number of causes have been proposed. Epileptic hallucinations from electromagnetism, black holes, aerosol nanobatteries and vaporized silicon are all being seriously considered, and even more whacky theories are being far less seriously considered.

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