Mapped: 2022’s lightning strikes

Florida took the top prize for the most lightning flashes last year, and the Southwest experienced significantly more lightning than usual, according to data from Vaisala, which operates a national lightning detection network.

In a warming world, the total amount of lightning is expected to increase. Shifts in lightning hot spots can provide clues to major storm events and how storm corridors are changing over time.

Now this is one big giant hole in the ground! 

The Cave of Swallows, also called Cave of the Swallows (Spanish: Sótano de las Golondrinas), is an open air pit cave in the Municipality of Aquismón, San Luis Potosí, Mexico. The elliptical mouth, on a slope of karst, is 49 by 62 meters wide and is undercut around all its perimeter, further widening to a room approximately 303 by 135 meters wide.  The floor of the cave is a 333-meter freefall drop from the lowest side of the opening, with a 370-meter drop from the highest side,  making it the largest known cave shaft in the world, the second deepest pit in Mexico and perhaps the 11th deepest in the world.  A skyscraper such as New York City’s Chrysler Building could easily fit wholly within it.

Opened up by water erosion in a fault on an impermeable limestone plain and with a roughly conical shape, the cave has been known to the local Huastec people since ancient times. The first documented exploration was on 27 December 1966 by T. R. Evans, Charles Borland and Randy Sterns.

Temperatures in the cave are low. Vegetation grows thickly at the mouth, where rains can cause waterfalls cascading into the cave.  The cave floor is covered with a thick layer of debris and guano on which “millipedes, insects, snakes, and scorpions” live.  There is also a narrow sinkhole in a fault of lower Cretaceous limestone which goes down at least a further 512 m.

These people rappel down to the floor of the cave where the scorpions and deadly snakes are waiting.  Why?

And then there are the crazy thrill seekers who want to parachute down into the cave where the scorpions and deadly snakes are waiting.  Why?  Why?

The cave is a popular vertical caving destination. The high side of the mouth is covered with heavy foliage, so cavers most often fix their ropes on the low side, where bolts have been fixed into the rock and the area is clear of obstructions.  Rappelling to the floor takes about twenty minutes, in which time abseil equipment and rope can heat up to hazardous levels. Climbing back out may take from forty minutes to more than two hours. A person without a parachute would take almost ten seconds to freefall from the mouth to the floor, hence the pit is also popular with extreme sporting enthusiasts for BASE jumping.  An average-sized hot air balloon has been navigated through the 160-foot (49 m) wide opening and landed on the floor below.  Base jumpers can get out in about 10 minutes via an extraction rope.

Wave that Formed into a Face

‘Blown away:’ Ingersoll, Ont., photographer captures more than just a storm in ‘perfect’ shot

Waves were a result of gales that are common during seasonal transitions, meteorologist says

Photographer Cody Evans of Ingersoll, Ont., captured wave action that resembled a famous Greek god. (Cody Evans)

Most people avoid the beach on a stormy day. Not Cody Evans. 

The howling wind and churning waters are what draw the Ingersoll, Ont., photographer to Lake Erie regularly, with the mission of capturing the perfect shot — and on Nov. 18 was his lucky day. 

Of the more than 10,000 photos he shot, one appeared to look like a face.

Evans said he believes it resembles the face of Poseidon, the ancient Greek god of the sea and storms.

“I was kind of blown away,” he said. “You see a lot of stuff like that in waves and in clouds, but to have it clear like that was just unreal. That photo sure stood out of all the rest.”

Since 2020, Evans has used his Nikon Z9 camera to catch the wave action at the lake, but this was an image he was not expecting to see, he said.

“It was just crazy. It was like the perfect day. I’ve been going there for three years, trying to get good shots and that was by far the best day I had there,” Evans said.

So, what was in the air that caused this phenomenon to happen?

Evans is from Ingersoll, south of London. (Submitted by Cody Evans)

Strong winds and enhanced waves

According to Environment Canada meteorologist Daniel Liota, the short answer is “November gales,” strong winds over marine areas that go faster than 64 km/h. 

“The lakes this time of the year are relatively warm compared to the air above them, especially with the cold air mass that came into the Great Lakes this past weekend,” Liota said. “So that resulted in the very gusty winds over the water.”

One of the many photos Evans took of Lake Erie’s waves. (Cody Evans)

Gales are especially common during the times between the fall and winter seasons, Liota said. In this case, southwesterly winds travelled a long distance over the lake and built up those waves over the water, he added. 

Evans admits windy days can be difficult on the beach especially with cold weather and sand blasts, but he made sure to wait out the snowfall to see the waves crash.

“The waves were crashing pretty good because the pier pushes the water back out into the lake so when the water is pushed back out, the waves collide and they cause those peaks,” he said. 

This was due to the cold air that was prominent in the Great Lakes region that came through behind a cold front, making for unstable conditions causing some lake-effect snow. 

“We usually have an active storm track that runs through the lake this time of year especially in the wake of these stronger systems that bring in cold air masses,” Liota said. 

High winds causing for strong winds and enhanced waves at Lake Erie in Port Stanley, Ont. (Cody Evans)

“So we get the strong instability over the waters which results in a long of strong winds and gustiness over the great lakes hence the gales.”

Liota said there’s not much peculiarity behind these kinds of waves and they happen every year. 

But Evans is determined to continue his streak of catching more of these stills at Port Stanley. “I’ll have a camera in my hands till I can’t hold one anymore honestly, I love it,” he said.