It’s finally spring on the East Coast of the United States. Sort of. If you don’t count the occasional two-day relapse back into winter. Either way, we’re in storm season: For the rest of the year, we can expect crazy shit like hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, hailstorms, and just general windiness.
Since it’s probably going to bury our town or city under four feet of water and maybe destroy our roof shingling, we might as well get as much enjoyment out of it as we can. Fortunately for us, storms are some of the most beautiful natural phenomena on the planet, so there’s plenty of stormy visual awesomeness that’s been captured for us on camera.
Yes, this is a real thing. Volcano lightning, or “dirty thunderstorms,” occur when volcanic ash, ice particles, and rocks collide in a volcanic plume, causing static and, eventually, lightning. This photo was taken during the 2010 eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull.
Haboob in Phoenix
“Haboobs” are massive dust storms. This one famously hit Phoenix in 2011.
Thunderhead in Silver City, New Mexico
This is definitely just a cloud. I’m like, 98% sure it’s not the second coming.
Storm in Tornado Alley
This photo was taken by a stormchaser photographer as part of a series set in the USA’s infamous Tornado Alley.
Lightning in Zirje, Slovenia
Most stormchasers, contrary to what Bill Paxton and the movie Twister would have you believe, are usually not in it for any scientific gain. The hobby is generally geared towards thrill seeking and photography.
Mammatus clouds are usually found at the base of a anvil cloud, and are a sign of oncoming massive thunderstorms. They’re also apocalyptically cool looking.
Storm over Sydney, Australia
This photo was one of many taken during a storm that rolled in over Sydney back in March.
Supercell in York, Nebraska
This massive supercell was captured on film in 2009 by professional stormchaser Mike Hollingshead.
Supercell in Sioux City, Nebraska
This supercell happened in May of 2004.
Oncoming storm in Cape Cod, Massachusetts
If you see this, go inside.
Lightning over Chicago
The old saying “lightning never strikes the same place twice” is obviously untrue. Most skyscrapers are hit with relative frequency. The Empire State Building (not pictured here, this is the Willis Tower) is hit an average of 25 times a year.
Tornado in Burdett, Kansas
Tornadoes are only considered tornadoes if they are in contact with both the cloud and the ground. Until they touch down, they can be considered cyclones or funnel clouds.
Storm near Grand Cayman Island
For most lightning photos, long exposures are required.
Storm over South Dakota
“Tornado Alley” in the United States, which also sees the most supercells and severe storms, is actually a pretty wide alley. It covers most of the land between the Rockies and the Appalachian Mountains.
Taken from a plane en route to Denver
Airplanes offer some really excellent views of storms as well, if you can get the right angle and not much glare.
Storm near Crete, Greece
The beach is the best place to watch a storm, usually because you can see it coming from far enough off to enjoy it.
Rainstorm in the mountains
Rainstorms are another difficult storm to capture on camera, usually due to the low visibility inherent in the storm.
Haboob in New South Wales, Australia
This shot of a haboob was taken in Broken Hill, New South Wales, back in 2010.
Haboob in Khartoum, Sudan
While the Phoenix haboob got way more press in the United States, haboobs are the most common in arid regions like the Sahara.
Tornado in Oklahoma
Tornadoes (like this one in Anadarko, Oklahoma), are usually around 250 feet across, but the truly massive ones can be as much as two miles across.
Tornado debris in Lennox Head, Australia
The debris of the tornado is in part what makes it so dangerous (you know, aside from the 300-mile-an-hour winds).
Supercell in McCook, Nebraska
My source says this is a supercell, but I’m pretty sure it’s the Biblical rapture or something equally apocalyptic.
Lightning over the Gulf of Izmir
The Gulf of Izmir is in Western Turkey, along the Aegean Sea.
Hurricanes are probably the most difficult storms to photograph the sheer magnitude of, just because they don’t fit into a neat, relatively small cloud formation like a tornado. But this photo taken by NASA satellites showed just how massive “Superstorm” Sandy was, and helps explain how it devastated so much of the East Coast.
Haboob in Phoenix
This is another image of the Phoenix haboob, taken from an airplane.
“Mothership” over Childress, Texas
This storm is called a “supercell,” which refers to thunderstorms with a rotating updraft. They are by far the most severe (and mercifully, the most rare) type of thunderstorm.
Wall clouds in South Dakota
Wall clouds are usually the bottom portions of cumulonimbus thunderstorms, and are the basis for most tornados.
St. Jude storm in the UK
A massive storm battered the southern United Kingdom back in October of 2013.
Lightning storm in the Grand Canyon
This picture was taken using a 25-second shutter speed in the Grand Canyon by photographer Rolf Maeder.
Cloud formation in Beverley, England
It’s difficult to be sure this was an oncoming storm. It’s definitely a cumulonimbus, and it very much could be a massive storm. It’s too cool a picture to leave out, though.
Waterspout in the Balearic Islands of Spain
Waterspouts are basically tornadoes that only touch down on the water. While they are still super dangerous and you should not go near them in a boat, they are much safer than tornados on land because of the lack of debris.
Oncoming storm in North Dakota
This is technically called a shelf cloud, but I prefer to think of it as, “Holy shit, the UFOs from Independence Day are here.”
Storm in Norman, Oklahoma
These clouds are the same as the mammatus clouds mentioned earlier. Also, let’s enjoy for a moment the phrase “Storm in Norman.”
Oncoming storm in Miami
Kudos to the ballsy sumbitch who was airborne during the taking of this photo, even in the face of the oncoming storm.
Storm in Kansas
Kansas gets shit on (unfairly) for its flat, less exciting landscape. But that landscape does lend itself to gigantic, awesome, beautiful storms.
Lightning over Munich
Though significantly more massive than when you brush your feet against a wool carpet, lightning is technically the same thing as a normal static shock.
Pre-storm clouds in Hong Kong
Storms as seen over skylines are probably my favorite, as they always dwarf the city.