The North and the South Pole are not just the two extremes of the Earth but also a storehouse of various mysterious phenomenon that occur due to natural atmospheric conditions. Scientists have so long been boggled by these surprising occurrences that they have now begun to explore far beyond our planet into the universe for similar phenomenon and have ended up discovering even more! Listed below are the jaw-dropping and astonishing “Top 10 North and South Pole phenomenon” that have been observed in the Polar regions.
10. Dancing Lights…What are They?
Northern Lights is the most famous and largely observed phenomenon wherein the polar sky seems to be adorned up with dancing lights of pink and green, generally. These lights are no supernatural wonder but a phenomenon that occurs when the Sun’s rotation throws out free electron and protons that get blown towards the Earth by the Solar Wind. These electrically charged particles from the sun collide with the gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere to form the beautiful spectrum of what we perceive as dancing lights, above the magnetic poles of Northern and Southern hemisphere.
They are called as ‘Aurora borealis’ and ‘Aurora australis’ in the north and the south respectively. It has been scientifically learned that the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis, in fact are mirror images of each other that occur simultaneously at both the poles! These lights are cyclic in nature, the cycle repeats every 11 years and the next peak time of the cycle is calculated to be 2013! So pack your bags to either of the two poles to view the nature’s light and dance show !
9. Sudden Stratospheric Warming Event…onset of Frigid Cold!
Most weather occurs in the troposphere. When large atmospheric waves, go beyond the troposphere into the stratosphere the sudden stratospheric warming event occurs. Due to this, a complex process is set into motion and high altitude cold low pressure area breaks down that typically spins above the North Pole during the winter which is known as the Polar Vortex. When there is a strong polar vortex, cold air stays trapped in the Arctic. However, when the vortex weakens or is disrupted, it can cause polar air to go south, while the Arctic experiences temperatures much milder than the usual average. The ongoing stratospheric warming event, the polar spills out from the Arctic. This threatens to cause severe cold in the United States and Europe.
8. North is South and South is…North?
The Earth has not two, in fact four poles- magnetic North and South Pole as well as Geographical North and South Pole. But what is surprising is that the poles switch! Scientists have discovered that the last time the poles switched was 780,000 years ago, and it has already happened about 400 times. This is called the Pole Switch Phenomenon. Each switch takes a thousand years or so to complete. The weakening of the field about 10% in the last 150 years indicates that another switch is in progress !
The Earth rotates on its axis and also the molten core spins along with it ! The poles move due to the changes in the core. These changes might also cause the poles to switch places. Scientists say that “irregularities where the core and mantle meet and changes to the Earth’s crust, like large earthquakes, can also changes in magnetic field”.
7. Hear a Friend 3 km Away!
How would you feel if your conversations in the Arctic could be heard as far as three kilometers away! Its no joke but a fact. In the Arctic, people have claimed to see and hear things hat they can not see or hear at most other places on Earth. This is no magic, but a result of atmospheric conditions. Layers of hot and cold air in the Arctic refract the light rays (bend it) and even make sound waves bounce off surfaces differently at different altitudes. Soft snow absorbs sound energy very efficiently, thus muting the transmission of sound. In contrast, a hard-crusted snow surface absorbs little energy and a smooth ice surface is an almost ideal reflector of sound. So, in the right conditions, conversations can sometimes be heard up to three kilometers (1.88 miles) away!
6. Water Sky and Ice Blink!
When a cloud layer hovers over the surface of open water, the belly of the cloud may have a darker appearance. This is called the water sky. On the other hand, if one can see white glare on the “lower side” of the clouds, its called ice blink. Ice blink actually occurs due to the the presence of ice which may actually be too far away to be visible to the eye. This ice reflects light. This is in fact so helpful that when travelers are stranded with no means of calculating where they are, then in the polar seas, they can use water sky and ice blink to get a rough idea of ice conditions at a distance!
5. I See What Doesn’t Exist !
Mirages are the optical illusions that occur due to light bending. Although it may sound fun to see something that does not exist, it landed a British explorer John Ross into serious dilemma when in 1818, he saw a mountain range blocking sound and he decided not to sail any further. But a later expedition showed that they did not exist! Ross had likely mistaken a mirage for a mountain range! Superior mirages sometimes appear in the Arctic when an image superimposes another image. Distant objects can appear to float high above their actual position… or even too low! Superior mirages can also distort images to look stretched horizontally. Sometimes a shoreline may appear to have cliffs and columns!
4. Imaginary Bar Magnet Theory
We know that the opposite poles of a magnet attract while the like poles repel each other. Similarly visualize a large bar magnet in the center of the Earth’s core which has its south pointing to the Earth’s North pole and its north pointing to the South Pole. So when we take a compass that points North, it is actually attracted towards that imaginary Bar Magnet’s south pole! But in reality this imaginary bar magnet is slightly inclined at an axis different from the actual rotational axis of the earth, called declination and this changes from place to place on Earth!
3. I Can’t Hear You !
Aurora is a Latin word meaning “sunrise” or the Roman Goddess of Dawn. Auroral Flutter is thus a very strange phenomenon that occurs when the aurora can be viewed from the polar regions. The radio waves bounce over the changing aurora and by passing through it. In the cases of severe auroral flutter, the radio signals can become really unreadable! This rapid activity occurs when the aurora gets active between any two points on the earth, from where the same part of the aurora can be viewed. In such a case, there is a rapid flutter which hampers the waves and AM, FM signals making them unreliable and unreadable at times.
2. Nature, the sculptor !
Hummocks are simply hillocks or structures in ice that rise much above the general ground level of frozen ice. Although there are not many scientific explanations for these natural hump-like hillocks, yet the widely accepted theory of their formation is the Cryostatic Pressure Hypothesis. The differences in the ground temperatures as well as the composition, do not let the frosting to take place evenly on the ground. This in turn exerts pressure on the packed ice which leads to the formation of Hummock!No wonder that they continue to surprise the scientists. The hummocks look as if carved in ice!
1. Sun at Night…
Midnight Sun, as the name suggests, this is a phenomenon exclusive only to the polar regions on Earth. The Sun remains visible at either poles for a full twenty four hours or even more ! This is called the ‘Midnight Sun’ phenomenon. It occurs due to the fact that the earth rotates at a tilted axis of 231/2° causing the Sun to be visible at the poles throughout the 24 hours of the day. At the north most tip of Finland’s territory the sun doesn’t set for over sixty days in the summers while the North Pole has a full six months of continuous sun! In the South pole, the midnight sun is visible along the Antarctic Circle for even longer periods!
The opposite phenomenon of Polar Night occurs when the sun stays below the horizon throughout the day in the winters!
The more we discover, the more we get intrigued . These phenomenon may seem bizarre but are the mysterious works of nature proving to us that there is more to our Earth than meets the eye !