No matter how much of it we’ve seen, the natural world never ceases to be breathtakingly impressive. Whether it’s a massive geological formation, an atmospheric oddity, or an underwater marvel, there’s simply no shortage of mind-blowing beauty out there in the world.

Sometimes, in fact, nature is so strange and extraordinary that it can be hard to believe it’s even real! These 20 stunning natural occurrences may seem improbable, but we assure you that they actually exist!

1. Dirty thunderstorms: Also known as volcanic lightning, this weather phenomenon occurs when the clouds of ash and gas from a volcanic eruption produce their own lightning!

phenomena-1Twitter / @JuvenalSV

2. Snow chimneys:  These wonders are a particular type of fumarole, a natural formation where the Earth’s crust opens up and emits gases. Sometimes when this happens in cold, icy areas, a column of ice and snow forms around the opening! 

phenomena-2George Steinmetz

3. Moskstraumen: These tidal whirlpools only occur in the Norwegian Sea and are some of the strongest of their kind. They’re unusual in that the seabed’s terrain causes them to form in the open ocean, whereas most other tidal whirlpools occur in rivers and straits.

phenomena-3Trek Earth

4. Light pillars: These optical phenomena only occur in cold weather, and are caused by tiny ice crystals suspended in the air that reflect light and make it appear to extend in columns above and below the actual light source.

phenomena-4MNN

5. Frost flowers: These cool blossoms typically only occur on the water in Arctic or Antarctic regions and happen at the ocean surface when some water molecules transform from a solid to a gas and back again rapidly while bypassing the liquid stage altogether.

phenomena-5Deep Sea News

6. Spotted lake: This lake in the northeastern part of British Columbia, Canada is rich in minerals like calcium and magnesium sulfate. In the summer, most of the water evaporates leaving behind large mineral deposits dotted with tiny craters of water! 

phenomena-6Amusing Planet

7. Lake natron: This Tanzanian lake is the only natural breeding ground for the area’s 2.5 million lesser flamingos. The large amount of alkaline minerals in the water keeps other predatory animals away, making it a perfect place for the flamingos to lay their eggs. 

phenomena-7British Bird Lovers

8. The Great Blue Hole: This natural phenomenon is a giant submarine sinkhole located off the coast of Belize. It formed as the result of a huge prehistoric glacier and it’s over 900 feet across and around 350 feet deep, far lower than the ocean floor surrounding it.

phenomena-8Twisted Sifter

9. Murmurations: This is the name given to large flocks of starlings that travel together in packs of 50 thousand or more and appear in the sky as shifting, abstract masses that are often quite beautiful to behold.

phenomena-21Taubert Contemporary / Alain Delorme

10. Fairy circles: These odd formations occur in arid grasslands all over Africa. Surprisingly, scientists have yet to figure out whether they’re caused by an unknown animal or are a biological feature of the grass itself!

phenomena-10Inhabitat

11: Underwater crop circles: Not really “crop” circles in the strictest sense of the term, these underwater formations off the coast of Japan puzzled scientists for years, until they realized male members of a species of pufferfish make them to attract mates!

phenomena-11Conscious Life News

12. Red crab migration: Christmas Island, located off the coast of Australia, is home to thousands of red crabs who live in the island’s forests most of the year. However, every Fall, they all make their way to the beach at once for mating season.

phenomena-12Thousand Wonders

13. Catumbo lightning: This atmospheric phenomenon only occurs over the Catumbo River and Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. The lighting occurs frequently for up to 10 hours each day, 140 to 260 days of the year!

phenomena-13Neat Nature

14. The Door to Hell: Formed in 1971 in Turkmenistan when a natural gas field collapsed into a gaping cavern, this nightmarish formation was actually set on fire by scientists to prevent the huge amount of methane it releases from adversely affecting the surrounding towns.

phenomena-14Wikipedia / flydime

15. Flammable ice bubbles: Alberta, Canada’s Lake Abraham lies over top a natural vent that pushes the flammable gas methane into the atmosphere. During the winter months, though, the gas actually becomes trapped in icy bubbles that can explode if swiftly punctured!

phenomena-15Reddit / mind_virus

16. Winnie the Pooh cloud: At a children’s charity event in Dorset, England, attendees were surprised to find a cloud formation in the sky that closely resembled Winnie the Pooh! Nature couldn’t have picked a more appropriate time or place for it.

phenomena-16Twitter / @CerealSochin

17. Giant’s Causeway: These interlocking columns of basalt in Northern Ireland were formed in a prehistoric volcanic eruption, but in Irish legend they were part of a bridge built by the giant Finn MacCool to travel over to Scotland.

phenomena-17Hotel Club

18. Circumhorizontal arcs: These atmospheric wonders are formed by ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere, and they refract the sun’s light in such a way that a rainbow appears to wrap around the entire sky horizontally, rather than just a partial arc.

phenomena-18Flickr / ashamar

19. Lenticular clouds: These odd clouds form when water droplets in the air get trapped between perpendicular winds. This makes them appear to hover in place and gives them a distinct convex or concave lens-like shape!

phenomena-19Imgur / Anrora

20. Sea of Stars: Off the coast of Vaaldoo Island, a part of Maldives, there are a large number of bio-luminescent plankton which appear in beautiful star-like clusters when they wash up on the beach at night.

phenomena-20Imgur / Xenof

Wow…I knew nature was full of weird, impressive things, but I’ve never seen any crazy occurrences like these before!

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