A video capturing a rare and breathtaking meteorological phenomenon known as a “crown flash” has been making waves on social media, leaving many in awe of its unique and beautiful display.
This extraordinary display takes place when electrical fields in a thunderstorm cause the ice crystals above the cloud to realign, resulting in the reflection of sunlight in a manner akin to spotlight beams. Despite the ubiquity of cameras today, there are very few recorded instances of this occurrence, which was first described in 1885 by the Monthly Weather Review.
The video was initially posted by meteorologist James Spann on April 28, who observed the crown flash over Miami Beach, Florida. Spann’s video showcases a beam of light appearing to shine above the clouds, almost as if someone was waving a flashlight. The footage quickly went viral, with other meteorological experts confirming it as a genuine crown flash. However, it left many in awe, with some questioning the video’s authenticity or suggesting it might have been from a previous event.
WATCH: Rare Meteorological Phenomenon Over Miami Beach
Spotted over Miami Beach today… video from Leland Randleman. What do you think? pic.twitter.com/2BBiFCyC6g
— James Spann (@spann) April 28, 2023
BBC meteorologist Tomasz Schafernaker retweeted Spann’s video, stating, “You’ve NOT seen a weather phenomenon like THIS! What a spectacular optical effect. I have never heard of it myself. Spooky…love it.” Other meteorologists shared their experiences of seeing the phenomenon, like Maryland meteorologist Dan Satterfield, who recalled witnessing one around nine years ago. Similarly, a Dallas-Fort Worth meteorologist admitted to never having heard of or seen a crown flash before, describing it as “fascinating.”
Despite its rarity, crown flashes have been documented in the past. One example occurred in May 2022 when a video captured the phenomenon in the clouds above Texas. Another instance took place in August 2020 when a local Florida resident recorded a crown flash that lasted for over 10 minutes.
Although there is still some debate about what causes crown flashes, the meteorological website Meteored suggests that the “most likely” explanation involves plate or needle-shaped ice crystals realigning during changes in the electric field of a cumulonimbus cloud within a thunderstorm, subsequently reflecting sunlight preferentially.
With the crown flash video viewed more than 618,000 times on Twitter and receiving over 2,300 likes, this rare and spectacular phenomenon has captured the imagination of meteorologists and social media users alike, proving that the natural world never ceases to amaze us.