If You See One of Those Clouds Over Your City, Get Out Fast!

Ah...You’re on the grass, looking up at the blue sky, enjoying some singing birds and catching some warm rays. You watch differently shaped clouds soaring slowly, high up into the air.

Suddenly you hear a powerful loud rumble coming from far away. You get up and notice a gigantic thick cloud ahead. But it’s not the size that scares you, it’s the shape. The cloud looks like a skull. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean anything bad’s gonna happen.

Anyway, it’s not even a cloud. A few years ago, a skull formed out of thick smoke over Mount Vesuvius in Italy. That’s the same volcano that erased the ancient city of Pompeii from the face of the Earth. Of course, back then, many people were afraid that the volcano would erupt again.

Luckily for everyone, the volcano’s still in a deep sleep. It was just a nearby forest fire that caused that famous skull cloud. But the locals weren’t so sure. Some thought that the fire...and the skull were set on purpose! Wouldn’t be the first time...

Centralia, Pennsylvania, USA. Population... well, just look around! Looks a little scary: bare trees, no animals, no people. All the buildings are empty. Roads are all cracked and strewn with gravel. No cars, obviously. Thick smoke everywhere. This town’s been burning for more than 50 years.

Centralia used to be a mining town. One of its coal mines was abandoned, and locals used it as a dump for their trash. Then, according to most people, the city decided to get rid of the trash in the usual way, by burning it.

The plan was a major failure. Let’s see what could have possibly gone wrong here. The trash fire got deep into the mine’s tunnels, ignited the coal that’s still down there and has been burning steadily ever since. The level of carbon dioxide shot up, and they had to shut down the other mines nearby for safety. No one could stop the fire, and the underground flames spread beneath the city. Roads began to warm up, the soil went sour, and the streets slowly filled with smoke and smog. In 2017 there were only 5 people living there!

Welcome to Abraham Lake in Canada. It’s completely frozen. You step onto the transparent ice and look down at what lies beneath. No fish, just some mysterious frozen bubbles. They look like small clouds frozen in ice or jellyfish who forgot to pack a winter jacket.

There are thousands of these little bubbles made up of methane. But don’t try to dig a hole in the ice to touch it. Methane is highly flammable! It’s created by methane-producing bacteria that eat leaves, grass, insects, or any other organic stuff that gets into the lake.

When the methane touches the frozen water, it turns into tens of thousands of frozen little balls. When the ice melts, they burst open and sizzle. If you lit a match over them at just the right moment, the lake would look kind of like an erupting volcano. I can only guess what you’d look like, but your new nickname would be “Burnie”.

Similar lakes can be found near some shores of the Arctic Ocean. There, the size of the bubbles can reach several times the size of hot air balloons! Beautiful for sure, but not exactly safe.

The next shocking lake is in Indonesia: the island of Java. You come to a majestic volcano, overgrown with grass and trees. The volcano seems to be asleep, but smoke is pouring out of it. You climb to the summit. Exhausted, tired, sweaty, you’re ready to cool off. Nice work, you made it to the top. You look into the mouth of the volcano. Hmm. No boiling lava, just a beautiful, bright, turquoise lake down there. It looks like an oasis.

Perfect time for a refreshing dip. You run down and get ready to jump in. But that’s not water, that’s acid! Sulfurous gases get into the lake from under the volcano. The lake itself is full of metals. When the gases touch them, they form that beautiful turquoise water... I mean acid. Better head back to the nearest village, rest and come back at night when it’s cooler.

In the dark, the lake seems to glow. Right above it, you see light-filled, exploding little clouds. The sulfurous gases rise out of the lake, combine with the air, and flash bright blue. Still, don’t too close.

Up in the sky, underground, volcanoes, lakes... Hmm. Time to head out to sea. You get on a yacht and sail off. It doesn’t matter where, this next one happens all over the world. So, the sea is crystal clear and calm, there’s no wind in your sails.

Everything is so peaceful... wait, what’s that? You hear a loud, loud noise. 2 seconds later, a huge wave, way taller than your mast, rises from the calm sea and hits your yacht. The ship manages to stay upright, and the huge wave disappears. You just survived the attack of a rogue wave.

Some scientists think it happens when the surface sea current smashes into a strong headwind. Others say it happens when warm and cold currents come up against each other. Another popular theory is wave interference, where small waves team up to form one monster one! My favorite theory: “kinetic-vampirism.” Under certain conditions, waves get a sort of superpower. Out of all the waves in the area, there’ll be one which sucks the energy out of all the others.

When it’s full, the wave spits it all out. Maybe that’s why the wave’s so strong, but only lasts an instant. What about clouds... scary? Well, they can be, if they’re huge thunderclouds, walls of gray and black blocking out the sun, the moon, and the stars!

First, you’re relaxing in your backyard, then you see thunderclouds. Then you get thunderstorms, hail, floods, and even tornadoes! They’re easy to spot thanks to their epic appearance — thick, heavy, and dark. They can even sparkle inside because of lightning.

That’s one scary-looking cloud, but before you run away, let’s see how it forms. Clouds are like rollercoasters. Imagine you’re a small drop of water, hanging out with your friends in the ocean, waiting in line for the brand-new ride that just opened up! It’s time.

You strap in. Nothing happens. Then you feel it. The rollercoaster starts to go up, up, up... you can see all your droplet friends down there... they’re so small! You keep rising, just waiting for the big... whoosh! But nothing happens.

Then you’re so high up that you’re in the clouds! It’s not so scary up here, and there are loads of your friends, nice. It’s starting to get cold, you look around, it’s happening to everyone, you’re being turned into beautiful ice crystals, so shiny and pretty.

The cloud’s filling up, getting kind of cramped with all those other water droplets... still, what a peaceful, enjoyable ri....AAAAAGH!

The ride kicks back in, and you start to free-fall! Slowly at first, then faster and faster, thousands of your fellow drops falling back to earth, some holding on tight to the handrail, some laughing and waving their hands in the air! Woohoo! And splash!!

Scary! Still, I like the lightning ride better. That’s the one where they strap you in, you ride up, and then you play bumper cars way up in the clouds. The more times you bump into another water droplet, the more lightning you create!

Not all lightning happens inside clouds. There’s a rare phenomenon called a dirty thunderstorm. The lightning happens above a volcano, the most famous is in Japan. It erupts almost every day and spits black clouds high into the air.

So it’s super scary volcano clouds... plus lightning. Woo-ooh! Regular lightning happens during a storm when ice crystals bump into each other. In a dirty thunderstorm, bits of volcanic ash collide, create friction, and spark up the sky!

Ok, better finish the journey with something safe and beautiful, no more cloud rollercoasters, please!
You’re in the Atacama desert in Northern Chile, one of the driest places on Earth. But this desert has a beautiful secret.

Every 3-5 years... flowers pop up out of nowhere. It’s so famous, it’s also called the “flowering desert”. Seeds lie around in the ground, just waiting for some rain. When the desert gets enough water, about 200 types of flowers sprout up. The yellow sands of the Atacama turn purple, white, green, and pink!


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