Natural Phenomena Astound the World

Photo: G. Volgenau/ MC

Katrina Kovalik

Northern Lights
Also known as the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights provide viewers with a beautiful show in the night sky of lights that range virtually the entire color spectrum. The Aurora is generated by collisions of magnetically charged particles that enter the atmosphere from above. The light show has historically been sighted around the spring and fall equinoxes (Sept. 22 and March 22) in polar regions, including Alaska and Canada. Pretty neat, eh?

Tree-climbing Goats
Believe it or not, there is a place in the world where goats climb trees. That place is Morocco and the trees these goats prefer to climb are called Argan trees. Here’s how this phenomenon came to be: a long time ago, a goat tired of grazing on boring grass looked up to see a juicy fruit hanging from a branch above him. To solve this problem, the goat decided his best option was to climb the tree to reach the fruit. As it turns out, tree-climbing was the goat’s hidden talent and he passed on the technique to his offspring and they to their offspring, etc., and voilà! Tree-climbing goats! If goats can do it, just think of what animals will adapt next. Elephants, it’s your time to climb!

Green Flash
If you’ve ever seen Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, you may remember that when the sun sets over a capsized ship and emits the legendary green flash, the crew is transported to Davy Jones’ Locker. Good news and bad news: the green flash is real, but it doesn’t have magical transporting powers; you’ll have to rely on floo powder for that. However, observing the actual green flash is quite rare. This optical phenomenon is due to a complicated combination of light refraction and the atmosphere’s density gradient. I’ll save you the headache of an explanation, and for those of you with an unfettered curiosity, Google it.

Sailing Stones
Death Valley, California is home to a very curious type of rock which likes to travel around the desert when no one’s looking. These stones, ranging in size from mere pebbles to half-ton hunkers, leave zigzagging tracks in the desert tens to hundreds of feet long. Modern scientists generally agree that frozen and slippery desert surfaces at night combined with strong winds are to blame for the phenomenon. However, there are no recordings of anyone ever witnessing the event, so who’s to say?

Glow Worms
I recently had the great privilege of seeing these little buggers in New Zealand and was amazed by their resemblance to stars in the night sky. Glow worms dwell on the ceilings and upper walls of dark caves, usually near a source of water. They depend on their glow to entice stray insects into their sticky “fishing lines” for their meals. The hungrier they are, the brighter they glow. Once I got over the fear of worms dropping on my head and looked up, I realized how brilliant nature can be.

Giant’s Causeway
Legend has it that an Irish warrior built the Causeway, about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that have the appearance of stepping stones, to walk to Scotland and fight his Scottish adversary (both of them may or may not have been giants). For one reason or another, depending on which legend you choose to believe, the fight was a no-go and much of the Causeway was destroyed. The scientific origin of the basalt columns is attributed to an ancient volcanic eruption. However, legends are much more interesting and locals love to spin crazy stories about the Causeway’s creation. The tourists eat it right up.

Miramonte Phenomena, come up with your own explanations:

  • The seagulls that attack the quad after lunch
  • The dispersal of artificial turf…. everywhere
  • Mr. Egeland’s never-ending good mood
  • The disappearance of the cleaning song
  • The folded-over Ugg – why?
  • Mr. Clark: cloned? He’s everywhere!
  • Where did dead week go??
  • Classroom clocks that go back in time