Sunday, November 09, 2014

Something New (with update!)

Les Cowley at Atmospheric Optics has something spectacular on his website all the time. It's one of my first internet stops in the morning to see what fantastic image is posted there. Sunday morning he had a photograph of a mirage taken from Vancouver Island looking out to the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Here's a link to it. Go take a look, and then come back and I'll tell you why it blew my mind.
There's an arrow pointing to what Moss Landing usually looks like on a cloudy day across the bay. Not zoomed in at all.
Here are two views of Moss Landing. The above image is what we usually see from the beach house. The image below is one I found on the internet. It gives you a better idea of what Moss Landing typically looks like.

Back in May, Roger and I went to the beach house in Capitola to celebrate my birthday with my twin brother. The three of us went for a walk and looked out across Monterey Bay and saw this.
The smoke stacks across the bay are the Moss Landing Power Plant. Those stacks are visible throughout the Monterey Bay area. They are definitely a landmark. On this day they appeared half-way covered by a fog bank or something. My brother told me he had seen them like this a number of times. Dully reflective and strangely optical. I was intrigued, but not excited. The above photo was taken at noon. At 12:25 it looked like this.
Click on the image. That's a mirage. I didn't know that's what we were looking at until I read Les Cowley's site Sunday morning. I was glad I had saved these images even though they made no sense to me. I'm still not sure what kind of mirage this is, and I plan to write Les to find out. When I went back to my photo archives I found another image taken from a slightly different perspective.
Here's a close up of that.

I can't begin to understand how this image is possible. Seriously. What are we looking at here? I have no idea. But that's what we saw, and I'm going to embark on a journey of enlightenment to find out. I'll keep you posted.

Here is Les Cowley's response:
"Your mirage is a superior type, so called because the extra images are above the object being miraged.    Air normally gets cooler with increasing height.   When there is a cold ocean current the air near to the waves gets cooled and there is a temperature inversion - cool air below warmer.    In California in some months it is exacerbated by warm air coming off the land and layering above the cool ocean air.  Light gets refracted as it crosses the temperature gradients of the inversion and forms the mirage.

At Santa Cruz you have an inverted image of the coastline and buildings above the horizon.   The inversion layer does not extend to the height of the chimneys and so they poke out from the mirage apparently unaffected."

He wrote that there is a hint of a Fata Morgana as well. 

He also sent a link to another photo on his website. I highly recommend that you take a look.

13 comments:

  1. Interesting! Seems like I'm always learning something when I visit your blog.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That is so weird. I guess we can't trust our eyes. How neat you captured it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow! That's fascinating. You are good at seeing how things are connected.

    ReplyDelete
  4. How very odd. A power plant never looked so interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  5. How weard but you have to love the fact you captured it

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've always associated mirages with one's own eyes; it never occurred to me that they could be captured by a camera. Now that I think about it, of course, it makes sense. But I wouldn't have reached that conclusion withour your post! (John in AR, posting from an anonymous computer!)

    ReplyDelete
  7. If I'm interpreting the images correctly, there is an inverted image of the landscape that appears over the landscape. The only way that can happen is if there is a strong temperature gradient in the air near the water that. Temperature differences mean density differences, which means that light bends when it passes through it, just like light bends when it passes from air through water. Based on what we're seeing, the density difference must be so strong that it is essentially causing light rays that would normally pass over your head to be reflected downwards, producing an inverted image that you can see. I'll be interested to read what Les says

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi everyone-- I'm just going to post what Les Cowley wrote about this, instead of responding to each comment separately.

    "Your mirage is a superior type, so called because the extra images are above the object being miraged. Air normally gets cooler with increasing height. When there is a cold ocean current the air near to the waves gets cooled and there is a temperature inversion - cool air below warmer. In California in some months it is exacerbated by warm air coming off the land and layering above the cool ocean air. Light gets refracted as it crosses the temperature gradients of the inversion and forms the mirage."

    I'm glad you found these photos interesting. I would have never thought of posting them if not for seeing the image at Atmospheric Optics.

    Les also sent a link to another image on his website. This one will definitely surprise you.
    http://www.atoptics.co.uk/fz151.htm

    ReplyDelete
  9. Fata Morgana! Amazing! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Interesting!

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you and your twin.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Utterly, awesomely cool!
    I never understood mirages, and it certainly never occurred to me that they could happen on water. I wonder whether such mirages gave rise to stories about ghost ships.

    ReplyDelete
  12. My, this was an interesting diversion!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Fascinating. What a birthday present. Thanks for posting such a full and clear explanation. I've never understood how a mirage forms.

    ReplyDelete