If you see dark storm clouds rolling in, run for cover. These clouds can produce bursts of electricity registering at 25,000 degrees Celsius. That’s hotter than the surface of the sun. Lightning is caused when negatively charged particles settle near the bottom of the cloud. These particles are then attracted to the positive charges that build up on the ground concentrating on conductors like trees and buildings. When the two charges connect, lightning strikes. Better hope you’re near a large conductor like the CN Tower when that happens.
Skiing in the backcountry slopes is fun, but not if you get swept away by an avalanche. These forces of nature rip through trees and bury unsuspecting skiers. Avalanches occur after heavy snowfall and strong winds, on slopes equivalent to a black or double black diamond. They can be caused by slabs of snow breaking off or other disturbances. B.C. is known for its wicked avalanches, so be careful in the backcountry.
Although we can’t tell you what’s at the end of a rainbow, we can tell you what causes them. Rainbows are the result of sunlight reflecting off raindrops in the air. The raindrops act like prisms, breaking up the light into a spectrum of seven colours arcing across the sky.
If you want to see a natural light show that can rival that of Disney World’s, you need to head to northern Canada. There, the aurora borealis dances across the sky in shades of green and pink. The lights are caused when charged particles from the sun collide with gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere. The colouring of the lights depends on the type of gas particles colliding and can extend from 80 kilometres to 640 kilometres above the Earth’s surface. One of the best places to see these lights is in Canada’s northern territories.
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Unlike in The Wizard of Oz, tornadoes don’t end in the clack of ruby red slippers, they end in flattened buildings. These vertical funnels of spinning air can reach speeds of 400 kilometres an hour. They form during thunderstorms when warm, humid air collides with cool, dry air. The warm air then rises through the cool air, causing an updraft. And if there are strong enough winds, the updraft can begin to rotate. Tornadoes are most common in the prairies.
Shutterstock/Preston James Garbe
Ever tried to land an epic cannonball in the ocean only to find the water has drastically receded? You can blame the moon for that. High and low tides are caused by the gravitational pull generated by the moon. This is known as the tidal force. The tidal force causes Earth’s water to bulge on the side of the Earth closest to the moon and farthest away. The bulge on the far side of the Earth is caused by the moon’s gravitational pull in conjunction with the Earth’s rotation. As the Earth rotates, different sections of the world pass through these bulges. It’s in these bulges that high tide occurs, while outside the bulges is low tide. One of the most drastic tidal shifts in the world occurs in the Bay of Fundy in eastern Canada.
No, that wasn’t your stomach rumbling. That was the sound of two seismic plates rubbing against one another. After enough pressure builds up between two collided plates, sections of rock break, causing an earthquake. The plates then once again move towards one another, until they get stuck and the process begins again. The largest ever recorded earthquake in Canada occurred in B.C. in 1700. It registered as a 9 on the richter scale. B.C. has the most earthquakes out of any area in Canada.
It might look like a scene out of Twilight, but that blood-red moon is all a trick of shadows and light. There are two types of lunar eclipses: a partial lunar eclipse and a total lunar eclipse. A partial lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth moves between the sun and the moon, blocking the sun’s rays from illuminating the moon. The Earth’s shadow can cause a portion of the moon to vanish. During a total lunar eclipse, the moon and sun align on exact opposite sides of the Earth, causing viewers to spot a blood-red full moon.
“Here comes the sun,” sang the Beatles. They probably weren’t talking about the sun emerging after an eclipse, but we can pretend. There are three types of solar eclipses: a total solar eclipse, a partial solar eclipse, and an annular solar eclipse. The total solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves directly between the Earth and sun. The moon’s shadow causes the sun to disappear, making the sky dark as night. A partial eclipse occurs when the moon is not directly lined up between the sun and the Earth. It causes a dark shadow to appear on a portion of the sun. Finally, an annular eclipse occurs when the moon is farther away from the Earth, appearing as a dark disk on the sun.
Grab your stick and skates. It’s time to go bardown, bud. Winter across Canada means skating on frozen lakes. But what causes our lakes to freeze? As water gets colder, it expands and becomes less dense, causing warm water to sink to the bottom of the lake. The cold water on top then freezes into a layer of ice. The ice is less dense than the water and able to float on top because of its hexagonal crystalline structure.
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Canada experiences its fair share of awe-inspiring natural phenomena—some you won’t believe until you experience them firsthand. Here’s a breakdown of what causes a few of those impressive forces of nature. Featured Video