September 20, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

The weather’s a staple topic of conversation, but most of the time, we’re not using words like ‘immense’ or ‘breathtaking’. However, in some remote and exotic places, there’s weather phenomena worthy of much more than just filling space between tube stations or smoothing over the awkward moments when you run into an aquaintance whose name you’ve forgotten. Take a look:

A triple Glory roll cloud. Source: Mick Petroff, Wiki.

It’s called a Morning Glory, and it’s a unique weather phenomenon which occurs only in the Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia. The roll of cloud can be up to 1000km long and travels rapidly across the ocean and land, with strong updrafts at the leading edge and powerful downdrafts in its wake. Depending on the conditions, a glory may appear as a single band of cloud, or a set of ten or more successive waves.

I’m a bit of a weather nut, so I was transfixed by the story of Jon Durand, a professional hang-glider who made it his goal to ride a Glory. He took a Red Bull film team with him, and the result was a breathtaking half-hour documentary of the trip. Have a look at the result:

Dwarfed by a giant cloud wave. Click to see Red Bull’s photo gallery.

The conditions leading to the Glory, and an ability to predict its size and path, not been well characterised, and the few locals who live in the Glory’s normal path are probably the best experts on it. What I do know is that it’s among the most spectacular cloud formations in the world, made all the more special by its uniqueness!