16 incredible natural phenomena found in Australia

There’s been a lot of talk lately about spiders falling from the sky in Goulburn, New South Wales, turning fields into web-covered wonderlands.

While this is a rather rare phenomenon, it’s definitely not the craziest.

Australia is the land of random red dust clouds, coral reef mass spawning, strange animals and bio-luminescent plankton outbreaks, among many other things.

It’s a weird and wonderful place.

Here are some of the most amazing things that happen in Australia, thanks to the powerful magic of Mother Nature.

Spiders falling from the sky

Kevin Dixon, May 1974.

In mass migration, baby spiders throw threads of spiderweb in the air and use it to parachute, detaching themselves once they hit the ground.

In the process entire fields can become covered with gossamer or 'angel hair'.

The event is also a common occurrence after floods, when masses of spiders use the silk to escape the rising water.

Red dust clouds

In 2009, Sydneysiders awoke to find their city blanketed in red dust.

Strong winds from inland areas pushed dust towards Sydney, resulting in a fiery haze as the sun shone through the cloud of dirt.

The area of the plume covered 840,860 square kilometres and rose 2.5 kilometres above the ground.

Doug Banks, a resident of Broken Hill -- the township where the storm originated -- told Australian Geographic that it turned the world 'absolutely pitch black. You couldn't even see your hand in front of you'.

'(Car) headlights couldn't illuminate anything because it was like they were shining off a solid wall of dirt,' he said.

Coral reef mass spawning

In this annual event, cued by the sun and the moon, thousands of colonies and species of coral polyps simultaneously release reproductive cells for external fertilisation.

It occurs in the last three months of the year on Queensland's Great Barrier Reef, with clouds of red, yellow and orange floating to the surface of the water in beautiful patterns.

Bio-luminescent plankton outbreaks

Paul Fleming

Just this week Tasmania’s Derwent River was invaded by an outbreak of bio-luminescent plankton.

The bio-luminescence is caused by blooms of large single-cell organisms called dinoflagellates. The dinoflagellate glowing in Australian waters is the Noctiluca scintillans species.

When undisturbed the organisms are not very visible but when stimulated by external forces they light up with an intense fluorescent glow.

Read more about it here.

The Christmas Island crab migration

www.christmasislandcrabs.com

At the beginning of the wet season the Red Crabs on Christmas Island, off the north-west coast of Australia, begin a spectacular migration from the forest to the coast in order to breed and release eggs into the sea.

The timing of the migration breeding sequence is also linked to the phases of the moon, so that eggs may be released into the ocean by the female Red Crabs precisely at the turn of the high tide during the last quarter of the moon.

It has been estimated that 43.7 million of these crabs live on Christmas Island alone.

Aurora Australis

Paul Fleming

An aurora is a natural electrical phenomenon -- usually about 100 kilometres above the Earth -- that causes streams of reddish or green light in the sky.

It occurs when rapidly moving particles, originating from the sun, come into contact with the very upper atmosphere of the Earth.

In Tasmania recently this event coincided with an outbreak of bio-luminescent plankton in the Darwin River.

See more on that here.

Horizontal Waterfalls

Carol E / Trip Advisor

The Horizontal Waterfalls are a pair of stunning breaks in the McLarty Range, in the Kimberley. Massive tidal rapids cause seawater to build up faster on one side of the range's gaps than the other, creating a waterfall up to 5-metres high on a king tide.

As the tide changes the direction of the fall reverses, creating vast tidal whirlpools on the outgoing side.

Morning glory clouds

The Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland is home to the morning glory cloud. The long rolling clouds, usually seen in the Spring months, occur when the ocean temperature is generally cool but the land temperature is warm.

This year the event arrived three months earlier than usual. Read more about it here.

The Min Min light

The Min Min light has been described as fuzzy disc-shaped lights that appear above the horizon in the outback of Australia.

Debate lingers over whether this is a real phenomenon or simply a mirage. Some have said the light moves towards them before disappearing, others report that the lights keep pace with them as they drive.

The Staircase To The Moon

Between March and October at Roebuck Bay in Broome, a full moon rises over the exposed mudflats causing an optical illusion that looks as though a staircase is reaching to the moon.

In Australia it can be seen from Onslow, Dampier, Cossack, Point Samson Peninsula, Hearson Cove and Port Hedland.

Sydney's southerly busters

'Southerly Buster' is the colloquial term Sydneysiders have adopted for an abrupt southerly change that can charge up the New South Wales coast, mostly between October and February.

According the Bureau of Meteorology, Sydney's location, between the Great Dividing Range and the coast, helps create these particularly fierce winds -- often gusting well over 60 km/h.

Roll or shelf clouds are also common when this type of storm rolls through. They are associated with outflows of cold air from sea breezes or cold fronts, or form the leading edge of thunderstorms.

Grasshopper plagues

Agriculture.gov.au / R. Eade, NSW LHPA

The Australian locust plague is widespread and is commonly found in a variety of grasslands and open, wooded habitats.

While an outbreak is reported every couple of years the worst in recent times was in New South Wales in 2004-05.

Locust outbreaks can reach plague proportions within a year following widespread heavy rains in inland areas, particularly during summer.

The cappuccino coast

Pauline Eccles

This natural ocean phenomenon is quite rare and only occurs during certain weather conditions.

Strong currents churns out dirt and other impurities -- seaweed excretion, fish remains, and dead ocean plants -- mixing them together to create bubbles and foam that are carried off to the shoreline.

Bushfires

Bushfires are a natural part of Australia's regeneration cycle and have been around for more than 60 million years, according to Australian Geographic.

The fires occur because of the country's hot and dry conditions and are fuelled by extensive bushland regions. While many native flora rely on these blazes to reproduce, they can also cause severe property damage and loss life.

The worst bushfire in Australian history is known as Black Saturday. On February 7, 2009, across Victoria, 173 people died and 414 were injured as a result of 400 individual fires.

Flash flooding

While flooding itself isn't usually considered a natural phenomenon, the fact that it occurs following bushfires is significant in Australia.

When the fires burn huge amounts of vegetation it has an effect on how the next big downpour affects the environment.

For example, during heavy rain the runoff may cause flash flooding. This fast flowing and rising water can be extremely dangerous.

One of the worst floods in recent history took place in Queensland between 2010-11. More than 900,000 people were affected, 385 died and the state's damage bill was $2.38 billion.

The platypus

Urville Djasim, Vogelbekdier / Wikipedia

It's a duck billed, egg laying, semi-aquatic mammal. Enough said.

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