Brocken Specters and Tornadic Waterspouts Among 2022 Weather Photographers of the Year

A short list of spectacular photos submitted to the Royal Meteorological Society 2022 Weather Photographer of the Year has been put to public vote. Containing fascinating weather phenomena like Etruscan sunsets, double rainbows and superior mirages, the selection, chosen by both photography and meteorological experts, will be hard to judge.

So let’s take a look at what’s happening on Earth in a few of them, okay, starting with that creepy pic above?

Ghost under the cliff by Emili Vilamala Benito

The photo above shows a spectrum of the Brocken stretching across Barcelona’s Sau Valley, covered in fog. Its author was standing on the cliff of Tavertet when the Sun dipped just there to create this spectacular optical phenomenon.

Brocken Specters, or Specter of the Brocken, is the name given to a rather clever optical illusion that was first observed on the summit of Brocken in Germany, earning it the local name of Brockengespenst. This occurs when a person or object casts a shadow which then rises by casting itself onto a cloud or fog, as in Benitothe picture of. The combination results in a huge shadow that seems very distant and sometimes moves even if the person or object casting it remains stationary.

Sau Valley is a good place to try, says Benitoas fog is a common feature of the early morning landscape, creating the perfect canvas upon which to cast spooky shadows.

Here is the double rainbow. Image Credit: Jamie Russel, 2022 Royal Meteorological Society Weather Photographer of the Year

Departure of the storm over Bembridge Lifeboat Station by Jamie Russell

That’s right, it’s a double rainbow (all over the sky). Russell went above and beyond in pursuit of this composition, admitting to wading through waist-deep water while fully clothed so as not to miss the shot.

Rainbows are an optical phenomenon that appear when rain and sun meet. Water refracts sunlight, splitting it into its constituent colors, which is why we sometimes get those technicolor bands of light during storms.

Double rainbows occur when sunlight reflects twice in a drop of water, creating a double rainbow that has the opposite color sequence of its (often a more vibrant twin). How rainbows appear to us depends on our position between the light source and the water, which means that the view of each rainbow (double or otherwise) is unique to the viewer.


Choose your fighter. Image credit: Carlos Castillejo Balsera, Royal Meteorological Society 2022 Weather Photographer of the Year

Waterspout in Barcelona by Carlos Castillejo Balsera

We’re back in Barcelona for this dramatic capture of two weather phenomena that look set to have a Kong vs. Godzilla fight at sea. On the right, an intimidating waterspout slid down the harbor front, Balsera said. , its progress occasionally lit by blasts of lightning to the left.

Tornadic waterspouts like this form from cumulonimbus clouds or thunderstorms. This is what happens when spinning columns of air extend downward from a cloud and pick up water. They can be quite violent, as this one certainly appears.

Although it’s a rather aggressive weather format, Balsera says capturing dramatic storms is, for him, kind of liberating. “Apart from my daughters and my family, storms are my passion and the reason why I can go without sleep for hours and I am able to drive hundreds of kilometers in order to feel the energy discharge that the being in front of a storm inside me,” he said in a statement sent to IFLScience.

etruscan sunset

Believe it or not, it’s in Kent, UK. Image Credit: Brendan Conway, 2022 Royal Meteorological Society Weather Photographer of the Year

Etruscan vase on the estuary by Brendan Conway

At a glance you can’t attribute this image to the UK but it does show people standing along a shingle sheet in Kent which is only exposed at low tide to enjoy the ‘a Etruscan sunset vase on the Thames Estuary. So named for how it makes the Sun look like the Greek letter omega, a sunset in an Etruscan vase occurs when refraction causes an inverted image of the Sun to appear beneath the actual Sun.

As the sun sets, it bonds with its lower image to create this bewildering omega shape. ConwayThe image of gets even weirder thanks to an upper mirage that made the buildings of Southend appear higher than where they actually stand, resulting in a strange fiery city in the sky.

This final atmospheric magic trick occurs during a temperature inversion where a layer of cold air meets a layer of warmer air above. Cooler air is denser and bends light in a way that raises horizon features, sometimes making objects that are actually below the horizon visible to an observer.


Supercells mean bad news. Image credit: Laura Hedien, Royal Meteorological Society 2022 Weather Photographer of the Year

Surround the wheat with Laura Hedien

This impending cloud is a force to be reckoned with. Supercells are arguably the most dangerous form of thunderclouds, capable of unleashing crushing hail, flash floods, winds and tornadoes strong enough to blow away homes.

These convective storm clouds are characterized by the presence of a rotating updraft called a mesocyclone at depth and can wreak havoc for several hours. Supercells like this are common along Tornado Alley, which includes Kansas where this photo was taken.

“There’s nothing like the feeling of standing in front of something so massive and potentially destructive yet incredibly majestic and beautiful,” said Hedian in a statement sent to IFLScience. “Having even a slight understanding of the birth, maturity and ultimately death of a supercell is humbling.”

If you enjoyed these photos and would like to see more, dont forget to vote for the Royal Meteorological Society’s 2022 Weather Photographer of the Year.

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