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Check out these breathtaking images from the 2022 Weather Photographer of the Year contest

Rainbows, storm clouds and frozen waterfalls, oh my.

weather photography

Weather is beautiful.

Capturing the perfect image is difficult even under the best of conditions, but when trying to get a snapshot of once-in-a-lifetime moments in nature, the task becomes herculean. The reward, however, is witnessing beauty almost too dazzling to be real.

On Oct. 6, Christopher Ison was awarded the title of Weather Photographer of the Year for his breathtaking photo of storm waves crashing against a lighthouse. According to My Modern Met, judges received entries from more than 119 countries and created a shortlist of 22 stunning images. The annual contest, held by the Royal Meteorological Society, celebrates weather of all forms, from whimsical rainbows to chaotic lightning storms and phenomenon in between.

Below are the eight winners this year. Believe it or not, some pictures were even taken with a smartphone.


Main winner: "Storm Eunice" by Christopher Ison

Photo location: Newhaven, East Sussex, U.K.

Camera: Canon EOS R5

storm eunice

"Storm Eunice"

www.rmets.org

Ison’s bold, dramatic, almost monochromatic image comes as a result of Storm Eunice, an intense cyclone that wreaked havoc in the U.K. in February. Its 122 mph wind speeds set a new record in England.

Needless to say, getting the photo successfully (and safely) would not be easy. Ison chose to head to high ground and stand slightly further away from the harbor wall. With his back to the weather, he snapped the image.

"When the storm was predicted and that it was carrying the first ever red warning for the south coast, I knew I had to find a spot to record it – this was going to be big!" Ison shared.

2nd place: "Frozen" by Zhenhuan Zhou

Photo location: Ontario, Canada

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

niagara falls

"Frozen"

www.rmets.org

Photographer Zhenhuan Zhou perfectly captured the mystical essence of a frozen Niagara Falls in winter. Extreme low temperatures cause sheets of ice to form over the water’s surface, giving the illusion that the Falls have completely stopped, when in reality water continues to flow underneath.

The cold imagery is balanced out by the warm glow of a single light emanating from a cozy cabin, which clearly belongs to some kind of winter fairy.

3rd place: "Ghost Under the Cliff" by Emili Vilamala Benito

Photo location: Tavertet, Barcelona, Spain

Camera: Sony SLT-A99V

Brocken spectre

"Ghost Under The Cliff"

www.rmets.org

The shadowy figure shrouded in a rainbow seen in Emili Benito’s photograph is called a Brocken Spectre—an optical illusion that occurs when the observer’s shadow is magnified as it’s cast onto a cloud or mist.

The Brocken Spectre is a type of glory. Glories are often seen by air travelers, who notice the shadow of their airplane cast on clouds below. The airplane’s shadow will be moving along on the cloud tops, surrounded by a rainbow-like halo of light as it flies through the air.

Public vote winner: "Departing Storm Over Bembridge Lifeboat Station" by Jamie Russell

Photo location: Bembridge, Isle of Wight, U.K.

Camera: Nikon d7500, Sigma 10-20 lens

double rainbows

"Departing Storm Over Bembridge Lifeboat Station"

www.rmets.org

Photographer Jamie Russell has apparently been chasing storms all across the Isle of Wight, capturing gorgeous rainbows. But the one found after a show in Bembridge was the ultimate prize, causing him to rush into “waist-deep water, fully dressed” to compose this image.

This double rainbow comes as a result of sunlight being refracted twice within a raindrop. A key characteristic of the “second bow” is a fainter hue and reversed color sequence.

Mobile category winner: "Sunset" by Aung Chan Thar

Photo location: Kyaikto, Myanmar

Camera: Vivo X70 pro+

Myanmar sunset, sunset photography

"Sunset"

www.rmets.org

This one’s a delight to weather enthusiasts and architecture buffs alike.

The richness of the sunset happens because of Rayleigh scattering, aka nature’s Instagram filter. When the sun is very low (as in sunrise and sunset), its light has to travel further through the atmosphere. Blue light, which is shorter in wavelength than red light, is therefore scattered away and deflected before our eyes can see it. The longer wavelengths of orange and red light are scattered less, and therefore more visible. Not to mention gorgeous.

Mobile category runner-up: "Scotch Mist" by Vince Campbell

Photo location: Tarbet, Loch Lomond, Scotland

Camera: Samsung SM-J530f 3.71mm

scotland photography

"Scotch Mist"

www.rmets.org

I knew that smartphones could take some pretty epic pictures, but I didn’t know they could be this epic.

Photographer Vince Campbell was up before the sun and walking with his dogs Oscar and Ollie to capture this beautiful misty scene.

This is a “misty” scene, rather than a “foggy” one, because of the visibility. Mist and fog are both caused by water droplets suspended in the air close to the ground. Mist is less dense and dissipates more quickly. The rule of thumb is—if you can see more than 1,000 meters (in the pictures, for example, you can see all the way across the lake), then it’s mist. If you can’t see past 1,000 meters, it’s fog.

Young Weather Photographer of the Year winner: "Mammatus Sunset" by Eris Pil

Photo location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Camera: Pixel 3 Phone

Mammatus clouds

"Mammatus Sunset"

www.rmets.org

"The sky was completely lit up in a way I had never seen before, like these beautiful backlit watercolor clouds,” recalled Young Photographer of the Year Eris Pil.

What looks like a Van Gogh painting in the photo are mammatus clouds, which, despite their fluffy, pleasant seeming demeanor, are created under tumultuous conditions. Often, but not always, they are sweet-looking harbingers of severe thunderstorms and even tornados. But hey, they’re nice to look at.

Pil shared that this photo was her “first time ever witnessing” mammatus clouds, and that she hopes for the “opportunity to see them again.”

Young Weather Photographer of the Year runner-up: "Tyndall Effect" by Shreya Nair

Photo location: Trivandrum, India

Camera: Redmi Note 9 Pro

light beams photo

"Tyndal Effect"

www.rmets.org

Photographer Shreya Nair was taking a walk through their backyard in India when they spotted light peaking through the tree canopy.

This heavenly effect is known as the Tyndall effect. Similar to a Rayleigh scattering, the Tyndall effect is a scattering of beams of light that attach to floating particles like smoke or dust. Again, because blue and red light have different wavelengths, they are affected differently during this weather phenomenon. The Tyndall effect is why the sky appears blue.

Wanna bask in beautiful weather year-round from the comfort of your own home? The Weather Photographer of the Year 2023 calendar is available on pre-order.

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Scientists tested 3 popular bottled water brands for nanoplastics using new tech, and yikes

The results were alarming—an average of 240,000 nanoplastics per 1 liter bottle—but what does it mean for our health?

Suzy Hazelwood/Canva

Columbia University researchers tested bottled water for nanoplastics and found hundreds of thousands of them.

Evian, Fiji, Voss, SmartWater, Aquafina, Dasani—it's impressive how many brands we have for something humans have been consuming for millennia. Despite years of studies showing that bottled water is no safer to drink than tap water, Americans are more consuming more bottled water than ever, to the tune of billions of dollars in bottled water sales.

People cite convenience and taste in addition to perceived safety for reasons they prefer bottle to tap, but the fear factor surrounding tap water is still a driving force. It doesn't help when emergencies like floods cause tap water contamination or when investigations reveal issues with lead pipes in some communities, but municipal water supplies are tested regularly, and in the vast majority of the U.S., you can safely grab a glass of water from a tap.

And now, a new study on nanoplastics found in three popular bottled water brands is throwing more data into the bottled vs. tap water choice.

Researchers from Columbia University used a new laser-guided technology to detect nanoplastics that had previously evaded detection due to their miniscule size. The new technology can detect, count and analyze and chemical structure of nanoparticles, and they found seven different major types of plastic: polyamide, polypropylene, polyethylene, polymethyl methacrylate, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, and polyethylene terephthalate.

In contrast to a 2018 study that found around 300 plastic particles in an average liter of bottled water, the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in January of 2024 found 240,000 nanoplastic particles per liter bottle on average between the three brands studied. (The name of the brands were not indicated in the study.)

As opposed to microplastics, nanoplastics are too small to be seen by microscope. Their size is exactly why experts are concerned about them, as they are small enough to invade human cells and potentially disrupt cellular processes.

“Micro and nanoplastics have been found in the human placenta at this point. They’ve been found in human lung tissues. They’ve been found in human feces; they’ve been found in human blood,” study coauthor Phoebe Stapleton, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Rutgers University’s Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy told CNN Health,

We know that nanoplastics are making their way into our bodies. We just don't have enough research yet on what that means for our health, and we still have more questions than answers. How many nanoplastics does it take to do damage and/or cause disease? What kinds of damage or disease might they cause? Is whatever effect they might have cumulative? We simply don't have answers to these questions yet.

That's not to say there's no cause for concern. We do know that certain levels of microplastic exposure have been shown to adversely affect the viability of cells. Nanoplastics are even smaller—does that mean they are more likely to cause cellular damage? Science is still working that out.

According to Dr. Sara Benedé of the Spanish National Research Council’s Institute of Food Science Research, it's not just the plastics themselves that might cause damage, but what they may bring along with them. “[Microparticles and nanoparticles] have the ability to bind all kinds of compounds when they come into contact with fluids, thus acting as carriers of all kinds of substances including environmental pollutants, toxins, antibiotics, or microorganisms,” Dr. Benedé told Medical News Today.

Where is this plastic in water coming from? This study focused on bottled water, which is almost always packaged in plastic. The filters used to filter the water before bottling are also frequently made from plastic.

Is it possible that some of these nanoplastics were already present in the water from their original sources? Again, research is always evolving on this front, but microplastics have been detected in lakes, streams and other freshwater sources, so it's not a big stretch to imagine that nanoplastics may be making their way into freshwater ecosystems as well. However, microplastics are found at much higher levels in bottled water than tap water, so it's also not a stretch to assume that most of the nanoplastics are likely coming from the bottling process and packaging rather than from freshwater sources.

The reality is, though, we simply don't know yet.

“Based on other studies we expected most of the microplastics in bottled water would come from leakage of the plastic bottle itself, which is typically made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic,” lead author Naixin Qian, a doctoral student in chemistry at Columbia University, told CNN Health. “However, we found there’s actually many diverse types of plastics in a bottle of water, and that different plastic types have different size distributions. The PET particles were larger, while others were down to 200 nanometers, which is much, much smaller.”

We need to drink water, and we need to drink safe water. At this point, we have plenty of environmental reasons for avoiding bottled water unless absolutely necessary and opting for tap water instead. Even if there's still more research to be done, the presence of hundreds of thousands of nanoplastics in bottled water might just be another reason to make the switch.

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Surgeries can range from fairly simple to incredibly complex, but few surgeries are more complicated than separating conjoined twins with combined major organs. That's why the recent surgical separation of conjoined twin boys with fused brains in Brazil is so incredible.

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