These 5 weather phenomena are some of the rarest on Earth

Mammatus clouds form over houses at sunset.
Mammatus clouds form over houses at sunset. (Getty Images)

Of course, we’ve all heard of tornadoes, hurricanes and snow emergencies -- even if we don’t experience these things, we’re familiar enough with what exactly they entail.

But ... what about the rare and interesting types of weather phenomena?

These are five of some of the rarest on Earth:

1. Ball lightning

While scientists don’t fully understand ball lightning, and despite the fact that at least one study, according to National Geographic, theorized the sightings are hallucinations caused by magnetic fields during storms, most scientists seem to agree it is real.

The first sighting of ball lightning that was ever recorded was in 1638. The “great ball of fire” went through a window of an English church. That, and other early accounts, suggested ball lightning could be deadly.

One piece of research theorizes that ball lightning is the product of a reaction between oxygen and vaporized elements from soil caused by a lightning ground strike.

Another theory states that atmospheric ions pile up at the surface of a window, producing enough of an electrical field on the other side, which generates a discharge.

Ball lightning has also been associated with earthquakes.

There are many theories, and many scientists have tried to create the phenomena, but even amid all the lab experiments, experts say there is still a lot to learn about ball lightning.


2. Hail glaciers

You may remember pictures and videos of Guadalajara in 2019 that appeared as if the Mexican city had gotten snow. That rare occurrence was actually hail glaciers.

Hail glaciers happen when excessive hail fall combines with heavy rain in the aftermath of a severe thunderstorm, according to the American Meteorological Society.

Hail glaciers have persisted for days and weeks.


3. Twin tornadoes

Produced by a single supercell, twin tornadoes are unusual.

These are different from tornado outbreaks, in which multiple tornadoes are associated with separate supercells.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist at its Storm Prediction Center told National Geographic there are several ways to get twins. If a tornado spins up before an old one dies out, when they overlap, there are two twisters on the ground from the same supercell.

Twin tornados. (Getty Images)

4. Record-breaking heat

Does this one seem obvious or surprising? The year 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year on record, according to an analysis by NASA.

“The last seven years have been the warmest seven years on record, typifying the ongoing and dramatic warming trend,” said NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies director Gavin Schmidt. “Whether one year is a record or not is not really that important. The important things are long-term trends. With these trends, and as the human impact on the climate increases, we have to expect that records will continue to be broken.”

Heat waves rise near a heat danger warning sign. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images) (2013 Getty Images)

5. South Atlantic hurricanes

Only one known hurricane has ever been recorded in the South Atlantic, according to the NOAA. Catarina made landfall over Brazil in March 2004 as a Category 1 storm.

In March 2019, Tropical Storm Iba formed off the southeast coast of Brazil, but never grew into a hurricane. It was the first named tropical storm in the South Atlantic in almost 10 years.

Over the course of 50 years, between 1957 and 2007, researchers found that only 63 subtropical cyclones had formed in the South Atlantic.

Hurricane. (2010 NOAA)

What kind of rare phenomena have you experienced?


About the Author:

Dawn is a Digital Content Editor who has been with Graham Media Group since April 2013. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in electronic media.