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Forum Index -> Trail Talk -> Bizarre Visual Distortion of Cascade Peaks
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Matt
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Joined: 30 Jan 2007
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Post Sat Dec 03, 2011 11:51 pm   
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This afternoon, seven of us were on Sister Divide (near Mt. Baker) looking south at the line of Mountain Loop Highway peaks stretching west from Glacier Peak.

We all could see bizarre columns rising from the tops of the peaks, and other peaks squared off into giant flat-topped blocks.

We guessed it was some kind of refractory effect due to the inversion with exceptional high pressure air aloft, causing some kind of reflection off the boundary layer.

These photos are blown up from smaller camera images (sorry about them being so grainy), so you probably need to look at the full-size version rather than the thumbnails to see the details.


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“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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Hulksmash
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Post Sun Dec 04, 2011 12:00 am   
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eek.gif   That is freaking weird.

Wonder what that would look like in video?

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NikonHiker
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Post Sun Dec 04, 2011 12:05 am   
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I've run into that before too. It is bizarre and frustrating as all get out when you're going for that natural mountain skyline look.

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jackchinook
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Post Sun Dec 04, 2011 1:19 am   
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Cool stuff.

I experienced  that once over here while skiing at Loup Loup.  Same thing - major inversion going one.  The small peaks in the southern end of the Okanogan Range were looking like these huge, apocalyptic buttes, way taller and more massive than their actual size.

It's near the top of my list of times I regret most not having a camera.
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Elvis
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Post Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:26 am   
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I had the opposite problem earlier this week.  My island was floating.


Ok, actually I don't know if it's an island.  Maybe it's a boat.  Photo was taken from Deception Pass State Park by Cranberry Lk, looking Westish.

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tamz0r
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Post Sun Dec 04, 2011 4:56 am   
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tmatlack
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Post Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:27 am   
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Very cool.  Cradle of the Gods most intriguing!!!

Sorry no photo, but one evening last year on Hwy. 9 east of Marysville a low deck of clouds was over the Olympic Mtn. crest and the setting sun was reflecting off that deck, and backlighting the Olympics into these ghostly, giant shapes.  Had to pull over and verify what I was looking at and I drive that stretch all the time.

Tom
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Mike Collins
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Post Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:42 am   
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It is the stuff of mirages. When temperature increases with height, as with yesterday's heat inversion,  the image is displaced up from the object. The atmosphere acts as a lens rather than a mirror causing images to be refracted rather than reflected. The atmosphere will cause light to bend because of gradual variations in the index of refraction in it. The index of refraction depends on the temperature of the air and the amount of moisture in it. The stronger the temperature gradient (the greater the temperature change with distance) then the stronger the gradient of the index of refraction and thus more bending. If the temperature is the same everywhere in the atmosphere then light travels in a straight line. I am heading out this morning to poach the trough that you guys made in the snow. Maybe we will experience the same atmospheric phenomenon.
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Magellan
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Post Sun Dec 04, 2011 8:14 am   
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I have not seen that before.  Thanks for sharing Matt.
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Hiker Mama
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Post Sun Dec 04, 2011 8:15 am   
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Wow, that is so cool!  I have a hard time wrapping my head around the science, but it's fun to look at anyway!

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RumiDude
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Post Sun Dec 04, 2011 9:28 am   
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It's commonly called a superior mirage.  And yes, it is because of the temp inversion.

Rumi

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gb
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Post Sun Dec 04, 2011 10:17 am   
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Pretty strong inversion. Cool to get photos of that mirage.

Many years ago on Mt. Baker I looked to the Olympics and saw peaks that were essentially upside down, narrow-based and wide on top. but no photo...
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mike
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Post Sun Dec 04, 2011 12:57 pm   
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See that here all the time over the water. Cruise ships sailing upside down in the air...

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meandering Wa
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Post Sun Dec 04, 2011 6:04 pm   
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Cliff Mass talks about these effects in his book

SUperior mirage = when warm, less dense aire is above cool, dense air near the surface, light waves are bent so that objects appear to be higher than they actually are.

page 206 "The Weather of the Pacific Northwest" Mass

I bet he would love a link to these pictures.  These images are stunning and unique

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Don
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Post Sun Dec 04, 2011 9:42 pm   
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I have never seen this before either.  Thanks for sharing, Matt.  And thanks for the explanation, Mike!  I hope you succeed in your mission to witness this!

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