WTF Fun Fact 13692 – Diamond Dust

Diamond dust precipitation is one of nature’s most exquisite phenomena, painting winter landscapes with a sparkle that rivals any fairy tale. This natural spectacle occurs under specific conditions, often in polar regions and during the coldest months.

The Essence of Diamond Dust

Diamond dust isn’t composed of actual diamonds but is a meteorological term for a ground-level cloud composed of tiny ice crystals. This form of precipitation occurs in clear, calm air under frigid conditions, typically when temperatures drop to -30°C (-22°F) or lower.

Unlike snowflakes that fall from clouds, this precipitation forms directly in the air near the ground, creating a mist of glittering crystals that seem to float and dance in the light.

Formation and Conditions

The magic of diamond dust begins with supersaturated air—air that contains more water vapor than it can hold at its current temperature. In the extreme cold, the excess vapor doesn’t need a nucleus (like dust or pollen) to condense upon; it freezes directly into ice crystals. These conditions are most often met during polar nights or in continental interiors far from the moderating influence of the ocean.

Visual and Atmospheric Impact

One of the most enchanting aspects of diamond dust is its ability to create halos, sun pillars, and other optical phenomena. When sunlight or moonlight interacts with the hexagonal ice crystals, it refracts and reflects, creating stunning light displays.

These effects not only contribute to the beauty of winter landscapes but also have implications for climate studies, as they can influence the Earth’s albedo, or how much sunlight the planet reflects back into space.

Significance and Study of Diamond Dust

Meteorologists and climate scientists study diamond dust to understand better the atmospheric conditions that lead to its formation and its role in Earth’s energy balance. It can affect local weather patterns and contribute to cooling, particularly in regions where it occurs frequently.

Understanding these microclimates adds to our broader understanding of global climate systems and helps refine models that predict weather and climate change.

Human and Ecological Interactions

For inhabitants of regions where diamond dust is common, this phenomenon is both a spectacle and a signal of the harsh environmental conditions they must navigate. It affects visibility, which can influence transportation and safety.

Ecologically, this sparkling precipitation and the conditions that lead to its formation have adapted to local flora and fauna, contributing to the unique biodiversity of polar and subpolar ecosystems.

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Source: “Diamond Dust: Snow From The Clear Blue Sky?” — Farmer’s Almanac

WTF Fun Fact 13260 – Tornados Produce Infrasound

Tornados can produce a sound that most humans can’t hear but may still react to negatively. Known as “infrasound,” the low-frequency noise is below frequency range of human hearing, typically less than 20 hertz. (The typical range for human hearing runs from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz (20 kHz).) Tornadoes produce infrasound when strong winds vibrate the ground and nearby objects, such as buildings and trees.

Tornados and infrasound

While the sound itself is not audible to the human ear, it can still have an effect on the body. Some people report feeling a sense of unease or even fear when they are in the presence of a tornado, and researchers believe that the infrasound may be partially responsible for this phenomenon.

Interestingly, the infrasound produced by tornadoes is similar to the sound produced by some musical instruments, such as pipe organs and bass drums. In fact, some composers have used the infrasound produced by tornadoes and other natural phenomena in their musical compositions. While the sound of a tornado may be unsettling to some, it is a fascinating example of the power and complexity of nature.

Do other phenomena produce infrasound?

Exposure to infrasound has been reported to cause both physiological and psychological effects. People have reported nausea, dizziness, headaches, and anxiety after being exposed to infrasound. It has also been linked to a range of paranormal and supernatural experiences, such as ghost sightings and feelings of unease in haunted places even if people can’t actually hear the noise.

Infrasound is also produced by other natural and man-made sources. These include earthquakes, ocean waves, thunderstorms, large machinery, air conditioning units, and some types of music.

Many animals are known to use infrasound for communication and navigation. Infrasound is also being studied for its potential therapeutic applications, such as reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation.

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Source: “Infrasonic Detection of Tornadoes and Tornadic Storms” — NOAA