Brocken spectra and tornadic waterspouts among the 2022 weather photographer of the year

A shortlist of spectacular images submitted for the Royal Meteorological Society’s Weather Photographer of the Year 2022 has been released for public voting. With fascinating weather phenomena such as Etruscan sunsets, double rainbows and superior mirages, the selection, chosen by photography and meteorological experts alike, will be difficult to judge.

So, let’s take a look at what on earth is going on in some of them, shall we start with this scary image above?

Ghost Under The Cliff by Emili Vilamala Benito

The image above shows a Brocken Specter stretching across the Sau Valley in Barcelona, ​​which is shrouded in fog. Its maker was standing on the cliff at Tavertet when the sun dipped down to that very spot to create this spectacular optical phenomenon.

Brocken Spectres, or Specter of the Brocken, is the name given to a rather nifty optical illusion first observed on the Brocken peak in Germany, giving it the local name Brockengespenst. It occurs when a person or object casts a shadow which then gets a leg by casting itself on a cloud or mist, as in Benitohis picture. The combination results in a huge shadow that looks very far away, and occasionally moves even if the person or object casting it remains still.

The Sau Valley is a good place to try, says Benito, as fog is a common feature of the landscape in the early morning and creates the ideal canvas to cast eerie shadows on.

double rainbow

Behold, the double rainbow. Image credit: Jamie Russel, Royal Meteorological Society’s Weather Photographer of the Year 2022

Departure Storm Over Bembridge Lifeboat Station at Jamie Russell

That’s right, it’s a double rainbow (all the way across the sky). Russel went above and beyond in pursuit of this composition.

Rainbows are an optical phenomenon that appears when rain and sunshine meet. The water refracts the light from the sun and splits it into its constituent colors, which is why we’re sometimes treated to these technicolor bands of light during storms.

Double rainbows occur when sunlight is reflected twice in a drop of water, creating a duplicate rainbow that has the opposite color sequence to its (often more vibrant twin). How rainbows appear to us depends on our position between the light source and the water, which means that the view of each rainbow (double or otherwise) is unique to the observer.

tornadic waterspout

Choose fighter. Image credit: Carlos Castillejo Balsera, Royal Meteorological Society’s Weather Photographer Of The Year 2022

Waterspout In Barcelona by Carlos Castillejo Balsera

We’re back in Barcelona for this dramatic capture of two weather phenomena that look like they’re about to have a Kong vs Godzilla battle at sea. On the starboard side, a terrifying spout of water slid down in front of the port, Balsera said, its progress occasionally illuminated by lightning blasts to the left.

Tornadic waterspouts like this form from cumulonimbus clouds or thunderstorms. They are what happen when rotating columns of air extend downward from a cloud and pick up water. They can be quite violent, as this one certainly appears.

While it’s a fairly aggressive weather format, Balsera says capturing dramatic storms is a release of sorts for him. “Apart from my daughters and my family, storms are my passion and the reason I can stay awake for hours and I can travel hundreds of kilometers by car to feel the release of energy that standing in front of a storm produces in me,” he said in a statement sent to IFLScience.

Etruscan sunset

Believe it or not, this is in Kent, UK. Image credit: Brendan Conway, Royal Meteorological Society’s Weather Photographer Of The Year 2022

Etruscan vase above the estuary of Brendan Conway

At a glance, you might not peg this image as being in Britain, but in it we see people standing along a sheet of shingle in Kent that is only exposed at low tide to enjoy an Etruscan vase sunset over the Thames Estuary. So named for the way it makes the sun look like the Greek letter omega, an Etruscan vase sunset occurs when refraction causes an inverted image of the sun to appear below the actual sun.

As the sun sets, it combines with its poor image to create this confusing omega shape. Conwayits image is made even stranger thanks to a superior mirage that has made the buildings of Southend appear taller than where they actually sit, resulting in a strange flaming city in the sky.

The latter atmospheric magic trick occurs by a temperature inversion where a layer of cold air meets a layer of warmer air above it. Colder air is denser and bends the light in a way that raises features on the horizon, sometimes making objects that are actually below the horizon visible to an observer.

super cell

Supercells equal bad news. Image credit: Laura Hedien, Royal Meteorological Society’s Weather Photographer Of The Year 2022

Circle The Wheat off Laura Hedien

This menacing cloud is something of a force to be reckoned with. Supercells are arguably the most dangerous form of storm clouds, capable of unleashing skull-crushing hail, flash floods, winds and tornadoes strong enough to whip houses away.

These convective storm clouds are characterized by the presence of a rotating updraft called a mesocyclone deep within it and can wreak havoc for hours. Supercells like this are common along Tornado Alley, which includes Kansas where this photo was taken.

“There’s nothing like the feeling of standing in front of something so massive and potentially devastating, yet so incredibly majestic and beautiful,” said Hedien in a statement sent to IFLScience. “To have even a small understanding of a supercell’s birth, maturity and eventual death is humbling.”

If you’ve enjoyed these images and want to see more, don’t forget to vote for the Royal Meteorological Society’s Weather Photographer of the Year 2022.

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