Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Stunning Images of One of Nature's Most Incredible Phenomena

Adventure
Stunning Images of One of Nature's Most Incredible Phenomena

Have you ever seen images of the water at Horsetail Fall glowing red like lava at Yosemite National Park? Or better yet, have you ever seen it in person?

"For a few weeks in February, if the water is flowing in Horsetail Fall, photographers and park visitors gather in the waning evening light for an amazing natural display," Delaware North, the contracted concessioner for Yosemite National Park, said. "The Horsetail Fall phenomenon appears when the angle of the setting sun sets the waterfall ablaze with reds and oranges, like a fire was falling down the cliffs on the shoulder of El Capitan."

When conditions are just right, Horsetail Fall glows red like lava at sunset. It typically only happens a few weeks each year. Reddit

The first known photograph of the phenomenon was taken by photographer Galen Rowell in 1973. The so-called "firefall" has captivated onlookers ever since. "It's truly a wonder of nature," said Elizabeth Christie, who posted a picture on Facebook of the waterfall glowing red.

Elizabeth Christie / Facebook

The phenomenon occurs when conditions are just right, usually in mid to late February. Some years the firefall only happens on one or two days, according to the National Park Service. Blurppy explains why the firefall is so "finicky":

Although Horsetail Fall is visible from multiple viewpoints in Yosemite Valley, several factors must converge to trigger the firefall. If conditions are not perfect, the firefall will not glow.

First and foremost, Horsetail Fall must be flowing. If there's not enough snowpack in February, there will not be enough snowmelt to feed the waterfall, which tumbles 1,570 feet (480 meters) down the east face of El Capitan. Likewise, temperatures must be warm enough during the day to melt the snowpack. If temperatures are too cold, the snow will stay frozen and Horsetail Fall won't flow. (Lack of runoff is also why there is no firefall in autumn. Although the sun hits Yosemite Valley at the same angle in October as it does in February, Horsetail Falls is usually dry in October because the runoff that feeds it has long since dried up.)

Second, the western sky must be clear at sunset. If it's snowing, raining, or even just cloudy, the sun's rays will be blocked and Horsetail Falls will not light up. Winter weather can be highly variable in Yosemite, however, and days that start off cloudy can clear up by sunset.

If everything comes together and conditions are just right, the firefall will light up for about 10 minutes. To see Horsetail Fall glowing blood red is an almost supernatural experience.

As the sun begins to set, the falls turn a golden hue and eventually become a bright reddish orange.

Watch Yosemite National Park's video to get a better understanding of the natural phenomenon and to see some stunning images of the firefall:

A grim new assessment of the world's flora and fungi has found that two-fifths of its species are at risk of extinction as humans encroach on the natural world, as The Guardian reported. That puts the number of species at risk near 140,000.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Flowers like bladderwort have changed their UV pigment levels in response to the climate crisis. Jean and Fred / CC BY 2.0

As human activity transforms the atmosphere, flowers are changing their colors.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A factory in Newark, N.J. emits smoke in the shadow of NYC on January 18, 2018. Kena Betancur / VIEWpress / Corbis / Getty Images

By Sharon Zhang

Back in March, when the pandemic had just planted its roots in the U.S., President Donald Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do something devastating: The agency was to indefinitely and cruelly suspend environmental rule enforcement. The EPA complied, and for just under half a year, it provided over 3,000 waivers that granted facilities clemency from state-level environmental rule compliance.

Read More Show Less
A meteoroid skims the earth's atmosphere on Sept. 22, 2020. European Space Agency

A rare celestial event was caught on camera last week when a meteoroid "bounced" off Earth's atmosphere and veered back into space.

Read More Show Less
A captive elephant is seen at Howletts Wild Animal Park in Littlebourne, England. Suvodeb Banerjee / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Bob Jacobs

Hanako, a female Asian elephant, lived in a tiny concrete enclosure at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo for more than 60 years, often in chains, with no stimulation. In the wild, elephants live in herds, with close family ties. Hanako was solitary for the last decade of her life.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch