Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Of light and ice over Cape Town

(With apologies for the strange alignment. Blogger is playing funny games with me today).

I thought I'd do a bit of a summary of the atmospheric effects I've seen over the last few months as I will be giving a talk tomorrow at Northumbria University on atmospheric optics and it seemed an opportune moment. In the six months so far in Cape Town I've seen some of the most amazing atmospheric optics I've seen anywhere in the world. With such a combination of weather systems in such a small space, this really isn't very surprising, but it's always a wonder to see them interacting in real time.

The Table Cloth is a sight which can be seen so regularly that it's easy to forget quite how unfamiliar to most such a phenomenon must be. When conditions are right, a layer of cloud can be seen literally pouring off the top of table mountain. It's a spectacular sight and the speed, coupled with the diaphanous nature of it is quite beautiful: 


I took this photo from Lion's head on a wonderful full moon hike up to the (almost) summit. This spectacular view can be seen just an hour's walk and a five minute drive from the city centre.
I live just below Devil's peak (one of the main peaks of the mountain), and while I can't see the cloth lying this flat from my balcony, I can still see some wonderful cloud formations due to the airflow patters around the peaks. I came back home a couple of months back and raced home, seeing some incredible lenticular clouds forming over my apartment block.  These are somewhat warped lenticular clouds, but the soft edges and dense centre are defining features of this formation. From my office alone I regularly see wonderful cloud shadows. These are shadows of clouds cast on layers of mist and fog, and quite often the mountain itself casts this shadow as the sun sets behind it. I took this from my office a few weeks back and you can see the lines of crepuscular rays along with the shadow of the peak cast on the thin layer of fog below


We've had some lovely halos on campus too, this one perhaps the most perfectly placed around Jameson hall, the main auditorium on the Upper Campus of the university: 


On a trip down to the Cape Of Good Hope just before Christmas I was treated to another amazing display, with one of the clearest halos I've ever seen. The cirrus clouds absolutely filling the sky from horizon to horizon made their appearance inevitable. As always I pointed these out to passersby, with varying levels of enthusiasm in return.


Sun Dogs have so far been rather elusive, but this is mostly because at dusk, when you are most likely to see them, the sun is hidden behind the mountain from where I am.

I've seen a couple of Green Flashes but haven't managed to capture anything very clear so far. I shall be looking at a new lens in the coming months and that should help with getting a lovely crisp image of the flash.

Anyway, there have been plenty more amazing sights but these have been the atmospheric highlights so far. In the New Year I'm hoping to get out to really remote areas to see some dark skies for a bit of astrophotography and will update as soon as I do.

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