10 of the Strangest Weather Phenomena in the Philippines

Did you ever wish you’d get to see the Northern Lights one day? Have you ever dreamed it would snow outside so you could snowball-fight with your friends? Unfortunately for a tropical country like the Philippines, chances are you will have to pack your bags and fly elsewhere north.

Nonetheless, these don’t mean we are all just rains and drizzles here. Prepare to get awestruck with 10 of the most amazing yet at times terrifying weather phenomena that do exist in our own country. We will not include unconfirmed or questionable events such as ball lightnings or St. Elmo’s Fire (santelmo).

And no, these are not doomsday premonitions.

1.    IRIDESCENT CLOUDS

One of the most talked-about and probably the most stunning weather phenomena that happened in the country in recent years is the iridescent cloud or fire rainbow. In the Philippines, it is being tagged as the unicorn cloud as the effect resembles the mane of a unicorn. Such effect originates from small ice crystals individually spreading light coming from the sun.

(Video originally posted by Anne Elle Salikala on April 23, 2017)

Where and when to spot them:

Iridescent clouds may be found anywhere during the day, but chances are you’re not high enough or just too busy to see one. They are mostly seen on top of cumulus or cotton-shaped clouds and are often visible in the late afternoon when it’s hot and humid.

2.    LENTICULAR CLOUDS

It’s an alien — it’s a flying saucer — no, it’s lenticularis!

A lenticular cloud is a stationary cloud that normally forms over a mountain range and at right angles with the wind direction. Its lens-like shape and smooth layered appearance usually get it mistaken it as a UFO.

Where and when to spot them:

Lenticular clouds can happen on both day and night but only when the conditions are right. Usual sightings of lenticular clouds in the country occur on mountains but there are cases when they happen over flat terrain.

3.    MAMMATUS CLOUDS

Have you ever seen clouds shaped like popcorns or cottonballs? They are most likely mammatus clouds. These rounded pouch-like clouds are saturated air which are heavier than the surrounding air, resulting to sagging.

Where and when to spot them:

Mammatus clouds can be seen on the underside of cumulonimbus clouds, right after a thunderstorm. In the Philippines, they are often spotted in the afternoon and when sunlight is reflected off of them, they give a remarkable view.

4.    SOLAR HALO

Haloes around the sun materialize when tiny ice crystals in thin cirrus clouds reflect and refract light, a concept very similar to that of a rainbow. Often perceived by some religious persons as an angel’s visitation or perhaps the near coming of Jesus, a sun halo is actually an indication of an incoming thunderstorm.

 (Video uploaded by Mars Diamante, General Santos City, September 18, 2014)

Where and when to spot them:

Solar haloes are short-lived and when they occur, their full rings are mostly visible during late mornings or midday. And as a life hack, remember never to look directly at the sun!

5.    LUNAR HALO

Haloes around the moon form in similar fashion as a solar halo. When the moonlight is bright enough to be reflected and refracted by thin clouds, a ring can form around a full moon.

(Video uploaded by Albert Tamayo, Manila, January 14, 2014)

Where and when to spot them:

Though the moon is sometimes visible during daytime, you will have a hard time finding its halo due to the repression of sunlight. At night, the colors of lunar halo may not be as vivid as that of solar halo, but unlike the latter, you can look at the moon and its rings directly with your naked eye.

6.    WATERSPOUT

A waterspout or buhawing dagat is a whirling column of both air and water mist. Waterspouts can be classified as either fair weather or tornadic. Fair weather waterspouts in the Philippines may form over warm coastal waters along a line of developing cumulus clouds and are generally harmless when viewed ashore.

On the other hand, tornadic waterspouts is the water equivalent of a land tornado. They are often accompanied by high winds and seas, large hail, frequent lightning, and even FISH! This is likely the waterspout with “rains that washed the itsy bitsy spider out”.

(Video originally posted by Arnel Amalla, Malimono, Surigao del Norte, October 14, 2013)

Where and when to spot them:

Our country was accounted for numerous sighting of waterspouts since we are surrounded by bodies of water. Fair weather waterspouts can of course be seen on a fair weather and last for only 5 to 10 minutes on the average, whereas tornadic waterspouts occur during severe thunderstorms and may last longer.

7.    DUST DEVIL

A dust devil is a small-scale whirlwind (ipo-ipo) into which dust and debris get caught up. They can have longer life spans as compared with waterspouts, but may equally be safe when observed at a distance.

(Video uploaded by Wenjz Wenjzie, Ligao City, Albay, March 19, 2015)

Where and when to spot them:

Aside from the fact that they resemble tornadoes, dust devils are a terrifying surprise to spectators as they may witness one on a fine weather. A heated land surface on a dry, calm day is a great recipe for dust devils.

8.    TORNADO

Among the unusual weather phenomenon happening in the Philippines, the tornado or buhawi is perhaps the most dangerous. It is a violent rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm down to the ground. Tornadoes in the country are considered small-scale as compared to the “twisters” that form in America.

(Video uploaded by Karen Daphne Madrigal, Manila, August 14, 2016)

Where and when to spot them:

Several instances of buhawi have already occurred in the country and opposite to beliefs, they may also happen on mountainous areas. A tornado can last for a few minutes depending on the current weather condition, but its effect could be devastating when longer. Trust me, you would not want to see or be near one.

9.    FROST

It sounds surprising for a tropical country to experience below zero degree Celsius but the mountainous provinces in the north prove it otherwise. Frost from the word itself is the formation of small white ice crystals on the ground when it reaches temperatures below freezing point.

Where and when to spot them:

Get your winter jackets ready and head out to the highest portions of the Cordilleras for a cool view of the frost. It usually happens on January or February when amihan or northeast monsoon is at its peak. It may not be same as in the movie “Frozen” but still, beware of the frost bite!

10.  HAIL

The Philippines has its own version of snow, or at least that’s what many witnesses claim.

Hail is actually the solid version of rain in the form of ice pellets not smaller than 5 millimeters. These pellets may be dust or other particles in air merged with supercooled water. A hailstone may grow up to 15 centimeters in diameter but rarely so in the Philippines because of our warmer atmosphere. What a relief!

(Video uploaded by Jackie Valerio, Philippines, April 27, 2013)

Where and when to spot them:

While it gets snowy during the winter months in northern latitudes, a hailfall is more prevalent in the country during thunderstorm season, May to October. 5 to 10 minutes may be short, but 5 to 10 minutes of hail can cause considerable damage to weak structures and crops.


 

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