Are there any weather phenomena that occur in only one location on the entire planet?
November 12, 2007 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Are there any weather phenomena that occur in only one location on the entire planet?
posted by BuddhaInABucket to Science & Nature (43 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: It's impossible to specifically define 'one location' but basically I mean one contiguous area that is small enough to be interesting.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 2:07 PM on November 12, 2007

Best answer: Part meteorological, part geological phenomenon: The Racetrack Playa Sailing Stones.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:13 PM on November 12, 2007 [4 favorites]

Extreme tides in the Bay of Fundy?
The Sargasso Sea?

I don't think there's anything like what you're talking about, no, unless you permit "weather phenomena" to be extremely specific and the exceptional case to be very similar to things that happen elsewhere, though not absolutely identical.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:13 PM on November 12, 2007

Well, the world's worst weather is on top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Maybe that's not a "weather phenomenon", but it is certainly weather that's unique to that location.
posted by beagle at 2:16 PM on November 12, 2007

The doldrums?
posted by mudpuppie at 2:19 PM on November 12, 2007

Does lack of rain count as a weather phenomenon? If so, see the Atacama Desert.

(OK, in all fairness it's an exaggeration to say that it never rains in the Atacama. Just because there are parts of it which have experienced 400-year periods without rain...)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:23 PM on November 12, 2007

Best answer: I think it gets cold enough in the Antartic for CO2 to sublime when you breathe out. So in addition to the water making snowflakes, you get dry ice snowflakes.
posted by GuyZero at 2:24 PM on November 12, 2007

Do you mean a microclimate like the LA Basin or the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall?
posted by Kioki-Silver at 2:25 PM on November 12, 2007

Not only specific in location, but specific in time as well: the Great London Smog of December 1952. (Of course smog isn't just particular to London or 1952, but it is kind of interesting nonetheless).
posted by heydanno at 2:26 PM on November 12, 2007

El NiƱo?

In Australia, there's the Fremantle Doctor, which is really just a cooling afternoon sea breeze, but it's got very specific name, which gives it a very specific location.

And if you're not talking specifically of earth, there's the Great Red Spot on Jupiter.
posted by kisch mokusch at 2:29 PM on November 12, 2007

red rain
posted by waxboy at 2:32 PM on November 12, 2007

Strange that my mind went first to the Sailing Stones, too. Though yeah, not quite "weather" still totally creepy/cool.
posted by disillusioned at 2:40 PM on November 12, 2007

I think Kauai has the most continuous rainfall. When I go there it really does rain all the time even with the sun shining.

What about northern lights is that considered weather? Probably not.
posted by 0217174 at 2:41 PM on November 12, 2007

Well the "northern lights" are "space weather", but auroras are visible to some extent from any latitude beyond about 35 degrees north and south at some time, so it's not really confined to one location.
posted by Jimbob at 2:53 PM on November 12, 2007

Best answer: The Kennedy Space Center's Vehicle Assembly Building is so big that NASA employees have reported rainclouds forming inside.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:54 PM on November 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Earth science pic of the day would have it, if it existed, but I don't think there are any geographically unique phenomena out there that would be cool to see.

The closest thing I can think of is the hole in the ozone.
posted by 517 at 2:55 PM on November 12, 2007

Hurricanes/typhoons are largely coastal. There are named winds in many parts of the world. In California, they have Santa Ana winds; in Greece, the meltemi, and in Paint Your Wagon, they call the wind Mariah (sorry, couldn't pass it up).
posted by theora55 at 3:14 PM on November 12, 2007

Best answer: The Rain of Fishes in Honduras! More in spanish.
posted by yeti at 3:15 PM on November 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Anyone know where the place in Africa (?) is where the landscape collects pockets of deadly gas welling up from the ground? They had a culture apparently based around not walking in low areas.
posted by Kickstart70 at 3:18 PM on November 12, 2007

Best answer: Does the Severn Bore count?
posted by afx237vi at 3:23 PM on November 12, 2007

0217174, you are talking about Mt. Waialeala, it is the wettest spot on earth, it gets about 460 inches of rain a year. In general though, i don't know if Kauai gets the most rain compared to any other county in the world(as the islands are each a county).
posted by Black_Umbrella at 3:49 PM on November 12, 2007

The Chinook wind is a unique entity to the west. Its a warm wind that blows down the east face of the rockies, and is a warm dry wind. Its a marvelous break from the winter doldrums, and temperatures have gone from -30 C to +5 C in three or fours hours.

Causes havoc on streets though, as the water runs, then freezes (expands) then runs, etc. Can make for real interesting winter driving also.

As near as I have been able to google/wikipediate, it is a western North American phenomenon.

posted by fox_terrier_guy at 4:01 PM on November 12, 2007

In the upper midwest of the US, there's a curious thing that happens sometimes that they call "lake effect snow".
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:31 PM on November 12, 2007

GuyZero, I was about to correct your science as I couldn't imagine that it ever became cold enough for the De-sublimation (aka deposition) of CO2 at -109.3F, but then my research backfired on me :) The Russian station at Vostok, Antarctica recorded the coldest temperature ever measured at -129F on July 21, 1983. But that doesn't happen every day, thankfully.
posted by jpeacock at 4:31 PM on November 12, 2007

To piggy back on SCDB, lake effect snow is sometimes accompanied by thunder storms- so driving, swirling, low-visibility snow, an orange sky, and thunder and lightning. That is pretty cool.
posted by oflinkey at 4:51 PM on November 12, 2007

Kickstart70: Lake Nyos is where many people died (and animals) after CO2 outgassing.
posted by anadem at 4:58 PM on November 12, 2007

Lake Nyos may be what Kickstart70's thinking of. According to Wikipedia it's one of only three lakes that get saturated with CO2 like that, which is pretty damn close to unique.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:15 PM on November 12, 2007

posted by nebulawindphone at 5:16 PM on November 12, 2007

Best answer: It's not exactly unique, but it's a bit odd: here in Portland OR there's a curious thing that happens once in a while because of the geography here.

In winter it's very cold east of the Cascades. The ocean isn't "warm" but it's a lot warmer. So you get a rainstorm blowing in off of the ocean, and sub-freezing east wind blowing down the Columbia Gorge, and they meet at Portland. Air temperature at cloud level is above freezing, air temperature on the ground is below freezing, and you get ice storms.

I remember one that put three inches of ice all over everything. It was interesting to stand near a woods that day because a couple of times a minute you could hear a huge CRASH as a limb broke off a tree and fell to the ground because of the excess weight.

Of course, it also brought down powerlines everywhere, and it made the roads ridiculously treacherous because there was a film of water on top of the ice. The city pretty much shut down for about two weeks.

Ice storms (i.e. freezing rain) are not unique to this area, but I don't think I heard of anywhere that gets the kind we get here sometimes (maybe once every few years).
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:24 PM on November 12, 2007

Kickstart70: there are exploding lakes in Africa, due to buildups of dissolved gas in the bottom layers of the lake water.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:37 PM on November 12, 2007

Best answer: I've got you all beat:
"The Morning Glory cloud is a rare meteorological phenomena observed in Northern Australia's Gulf of Carpentaria. A Morning Glory cloud is a roll cloud that can be up to 1000 kilometers long, 1 to 2 kilometers high, and can move at speeds up to 40 kilometers per hour. "

More linky:

A fellow who wrote a cloud book mentioned it. I'll see if I can dig that up too.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:24 PM on November 12, 2007

The Atacama Desert.

The incredible thing about this tiny strip of land is that it runs right along the Pacific Ocean, yet is 100 times drier than Death Valley!

Cool factoids from wikipedia:
  • Evidence suggests that the Atacama may not have had any significant rainfall from 1570 to 1971.
  • It is so arid that mountains that reach as high as 6,885 metres (22,590 feet) are completely free of glaciers.
  • The soil is almost completely devoid of life, so much so that NASA uses the area to test the sensitivity of their microbial-detection instruments.

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:24 PM on November 12, 2007

Here it is:
"The Cloudspotter's Guide", by Gavin Pretor-Pinney:

Amazon reviews
Cheap copies on abebooks
(buffs fingernails on shirt, inspects them, asumes a haughty look)
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:29 PM on November 12, 2007

Best answer: Snow rollers: nature's own snowballs
posted by lukemeister at 8:09 PM on November 12, 2007

Possible the Marfa lights in Texas, but I don't know if those can decisively be called weather phenomena...or any phenomena at all, for that matter.
posted by internet!Hannah at 8:24 PM on November 12, 2007

Santa Ana winds in southern California?
posted by GaelFC at 8:59 PM on November 12, 2007

fox_terrier_guy: Siroccos, the Santa Ana winds, and the Foehn in southern Germany all the same basic phenomenon as our Chinooks in Alberta. One thing that might make Chinooks "unique"is that the people at the receiving end (in Calgary at least) consider them a blessing.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:27 PM on November 12, 2007

I keep hearing that the Albuquerque Box is unique, but I always figured that was at least partly tourist propaganda.
posted by yohko at 9:35 PM on November 12, 2007

Sebastienbailard beat me to the Morning Glory cloud, but I want to second his recommendation of The Cloudspotter's Guide. It's a great book with all sorts of interesting weather facts.
posted by painquale at 11:47 PM on November 12, 2007

How about the UFO's in Hessdalen, Norway?

These light phenomena appear only around this one valley. The first reports were dismissed as silly claims by village idiots, it's had the attention of scientist all over the world for a few years now.

The leading theory appears to be that it's caused by a combustion process in the air involving oxygen, nitrogen and sodium.
posted by cheerleaders_to_your_funeral at 1:21 AM on November 13, 2007

but it's had the attention [...]
posted by cheerleaders_to_your_funeral at 1:22 AM on November 13, 2007

Lake Effect Snow:
Along Michigan's Upper Peninsula, this happens frequently, as cold winds blow down from Canada, across the warmer waters of Lake Superior. Moisture is picked up from the lake, and falls out as snow: BUT! A few miles away from shore. The shore can be snow-free, yet inland, many inches deep.

Lake Effect snow falls in visible bands. A number of times I've driven across the UP in winter. You can often see lines right across the road where more snow is in one place, not the next. One winter, I had a paper route that took me 30 miles SW of my house, daily. My house could be quite deep in fresh snow, but 30 miles down the road they get relatively little. They're too far from the lake.

I've no idea how unique this is, I'd guess not especially so, but don't know. Possibly it is unique, owing to the climate being cold enough with the Great Lakes there.

The satellite photo on the wiki page from Steven shows the banding very well (I've seen a better photo somewhere).
posted by Goofyy at 1:31 AM on November 14, 2007

there are 7 incredible things here...
posted by meeshell at 9:44 AM on November 17, 2007

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