Friday, December 4th 2020, 2:20 pm - Spectacular display of Fata Morgana spotted over the Hand Hills of southern Alberta
Fata Morgana forms due to a superior mirage that makes objects on the horizon appear much higher than they actually are. Courtesy: Kyle Brittain/The Weather Network
A Fata Morgana is a type of superior mirage that can make objects on a distant horizon appear taller than they actually are. This occurs when a temperature inversion is present, with cold surface temperatures below the observer’s line of sight existing below much warmer temperatures above. The colder air has a higher refractive index, meaning light rays bend more readily through the cold than through warmer air. This can result in distant objects on the horizon appearing to loom higher than normal, or even float above the surface, making a minor range of hills appear as steep-sided mountains.
Fata Morgana is often observed over the cold land surfaces of the Arctic and Antarctic, and is also seen at times over the ocean, making distant ships appear to float above the water surface.
Fata Morgana seen over the Hand Hills of southern Alberta. Courtesy: Kyle Brittain/The Weather Network
The phenomenon is named after the Italian translation of the medieval sorceress “Morgan Le Fay,” who was thought to create fairy castles or suspended islands of land over the Strait of Messina in order to lead unsuspecting sailors to their deaths.
Courtesy: Kyle Brittain/The Weather Network