These Incredible GIFs Of Earth's Natural Phenomena Will Blow Your Mind

The natural world is full of incredible scenes and events.

And often, still images don’t do these phenomena justice. You can only understand their power, movement, and beauty through animation.

From electric blue ocean waves to spiraling columns of fire, here are some of the planet’s most amazing natural occurrences and land formations in GIFs.

Fire devils occur when intense heat brought on by drought combines with rotating air.

These menacing spirals of flame, also known as fire tornadoes, can grow to be more than 150 feet tall, spewing embers and debris into the air. Though typically only lasting a few minutes, the whirls of fire can contribute to the spread of wildfires.

Source: NBC Today Show

Brinicles are underwater icicles.

When sea ice melts, it leaves behind brine that is so salty it sinks. A brinicle forms when sea water freezes around the descending salt.

As the underwater icicle moves toward the sea floor, it kills nearly everything in its path by encasing it in ice. A film crew for the BBC was the first to capture this phenomenon on camera.

Source: Discovery

Bioluminescent red tide, which causes ocean waters in Southern California to glow neon blue at night, is created by single-celled organisms called dinoflagellates.

The organism forms algae blooms, or red tides, that emit electric blue light when disrupted. All it takes is the breaking of wave or a surfer paddling for the chemical reaction to happen. Although many forms of red tide are toxic, this particular form is harmless to humans.

Source: Loghan Call/YouTube

Ice circles are perfectly-round formations that appear etched into frozen rivers, ponds, and lakes.

Until a few years ago, the cause of ice circles eluded scientists. The circles first cropped up in Russia and were later observed in Scandinavia, Canada, and parts of the United States.

In 2009, astronauts on the International Space Station reported seeing giant ice rings -- about 2.7 miles in diameter -- in Lake Baikal in Siberia. Ecologists believed the rotating discs could be attributed to warm water underneath the ice that melts the surface into a circle. LiveScience explains: 'Methane emissions can create a rising mass of warm water that begins swirling in a circular pattern because of the Coriolis force, or the phenomenon caused by the Earth's rotation that also helps create cyclones.'

Source: David Vose/YouTube

Maelstroms are massive whirlpools that form when conflicting tidal flows meet.

Although a malestrom's swirling vortex can be powerful enough to pull down a swimmer, stories of tidal whirlpools sinking container ships and fishing trawlers are completely false. A malestrom has never been reported strong enough for this to occur.

The strongest malestrom in the world is the Saltstraumen located outside Bodø, Norway, near the Arctic Circle.

Source: xinanorway/YouTube

Fire rainbows are created by ice crystals in high-altitude cirrus clouds.

A fire rainbow -- also called a circumhorizon arc -- happens when light passes through the ice crystals and refracts, causing it to split into all different colours of the spectrum.

In order for fire rainbows to occur, the sun must be more than 58° above the horizon and the crystals must be plate-shaped and aligned horizontally. The flame-like rainbow can be seen several times during the summer months in the United States, but is much less common in northern Europe.

Source: Strange-Earth/YouTube

Multi-colour striped icebergs are found in Antarctica.

Striped icebergs form a couple different ways. Blue stripes occur when layers of ice melt and refreeze so fast that no bubbles -- which scatter light to give icebergs their white appearance -- are created.

If the water that freezes is rich in algae, the bands may appear green. Black, brown, and yellow striations are created by sediments picked up by a glacier as it runs down a mountain into the ocean.

Source: mrantisocialguy/YouTube

Penitentes are spikes of ice or snow that form on high-altitude glaciers.

The sharp peaks occur when the sun penetrates certain parts of snow or ice, which turn directly into water vapor without going through a liquid phase. This process is also known as sublimation.

Penitentes can reach up to 4 meters in height and are typically found in the dry Andes mountains.

Source: koolmaran/YouTube

The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, occurs when highly-charged particles from the magnetosphere collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the Earth's upper atmosphere.

The colour of the aurora -- green, red, blue, or purple -- is determined by the type of atom and altitude at which it is struck. Auroras are generally seen over the magnetic poles.

Source: lakefxnet/YouTube

Lenticular clouds look like flying saucers or a stack of pancakes.

Lenticular clouds form when a strong air-stream is forced over a mountain creating a series of waves behind it that are 'not unlike a wave you might generate by throwing a pebble into a pond,' explains NOAA. When moist air gathers at the top of these waves, you can get a Lenticular cloud. They are most common on large mountains and in the winter months when strong winds and cold temperatures dominate.

Source: dpaulin/YouTube

Hair ice is created by a bacteria that lives in plants and shrubs.

This strange fluffy ice is formed when the bacteria pseudomonas syringae raises the plant's internal water freezing temperature. As the internal water cools its way to ice, it expands and seeps out the cracks of the plant. When it reaches the cooler air outside, it freezes in the hair-like structures seen in the video below.

Source: Teemu Maki-Patola/YouTube

An invasion of sea foam can happen when huge volumes of water ocean water are violently stirred up by wind and waves.

Enormous natural rock columns are created by the rapid cooling of lava.

About 40,000 natural stone pillars jut out of the ocean at Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. These columns are shaped like pentagons, hexagons, and heptagons and can reach up to 82 feet. They formed 50 to 70 million years ago when repeated lava flows cooled upon hitting the sea.

'The process is called columnar jointing,' Science Focus explains. 'It happens when a layer of molten lava gradually cools by a loss of heat through its surface. Stresses build up in this surface as it shrinks, eventually leading to a network of shrinkage cracks.'

Source: pleasetakemeto/YouTube

Sailing stones are rocks appear to move across the flat desert in Death Valley, California, without help from humans or animals.

Sailing stones can weigh up to 700 pounds and leave behind long snake-like tracks in the sand.

In 2011, a team of researchers finally figured out what causes the rocks to move: In the winter, a slab of ice forms around the rock and the mud below it becomes saturated with water. It's like 'a small floating ice sheet,' scientist Ralph Lorenz explained to, 'which happens to have a keel facing down that can dig a trail in the soft mud.'

Source: AOL video

Limestone towers called Hoodoos can reach 150 feet in height date back 40 million years.

The towers found at Bryce Canyon National Park are mostly formed by a process called frost wedging. Winter snow melt seeps into the cracks of the rocks and freezes during the night. The freezing water expands and pries open the rock. Acidic rainwater also eats away at the limestone to round out the edges. Different layers of rock erode at different rates, which gives the hoodoos their curvaceous shape.

Source: AP/YouTube

Green flashes are when the sun suddenly appears green at sunrise or sunset.

The green flash is caused by the sunlight bending from refraction, which separates the light into different colours. However, a person can only see the flash -- which usually only lasts a few seconds -- under certain conditions.

'The green flash is best observed when you have a clear view of the horizon uncluttered by foreground objects and pollution free,' according to the Mount Wilson Observatory. The flash is usually green because less green light is scattered than other colours so that it hits our eyes.

Source: Peter Cook/YouTube

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