Weather helps form these 10 amazing geological sites

Geology and weather bring unique experiences in nature

BANYUWANGI, EAST JAVA - DECEMBER 15:  Steam and acidic gases emerge from fumaroles at Kawah Ijen crater on December 15, 2011 in Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia. The Ijen crater rises to 2,386m, with a depth of over 175m, making it one of the world's largest craters. Sulphur mining is a major industry in the region, made possible by an active vent at the edge of a lake, but the work is not without risks. The acidity of the water in the crater is high enough to dissolve clothing and cause breathing problems. Miners carry the solidified yellow sulphur blocks from the crater floor to the rim for as many hours a day as they can tolerate, paid by the kilogram of sulphur they extract. A worker, depending on his strength and stamina, can carry on average 3 baskets of 70-80kg per day.  (Photo by Athit Perawongmetha/Getty Images)
BANYUWANGI, EAST JAVA - DECEMBER 15: Steam and acidic gases emerge from fumaroles at Kawah Ijen crater on December 15, 2011 in Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia. The Ijen crater rises to 2,386m, with a depth of over 175m, making it one of the world's largest craters. Sulphur mining is a major industry in the region, made possible by an active vent at the edge of a lake, but the work is not without risks. The acidity of the water in the crater is high enough to dissolve clothing and cause breathing problems. Miners carry the solidified yellow sulphur blocks from the crater floor to the rim for as many hours a day as they can tolerate, paid by the kilogram of sulphur they extract. A worker, depending on his strength and stamina, can carry on average 3 baskets of 70-80kg per day. (Photo by Athit Perawongmetha/Getty Images) (2011 Athit Perawongmetha)

Weather: We see and live through the changes every day.

The state of the atmosphere at a place and time is weather. There’s the heat and rain, which we are familiar with here in Florida as well as dryness, sunshine, wind and -- well, you get the picture.

The amazing thing about weather, beyond the process, is what it can do to places over a period of time. Sure the devastation in the aftermath of a hurricane is an example that comes to mind, but the weather has also helped make some really amazing geological wonderlands to visit all over the world.

Here are 10 places one might consider for the next vacation destination, and a few only extreme tourists may consider.

The Grand Canyon

An American staple for family vacations and amazing photos, an estimated 5.9 million people visit this popular national park, according to the U.S. Department of Interior. This park made its debut in February 1919, but it’s formation goes back 60 million years ago.

This photo provided by John Dillon shows the effects of flooding in the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon on Thursday, July 15, 2021. The river that's normally a greenish color turned a muddy brown from flash floods that have inundated Arizona. Authorities are searching for two people who were on a river rafting trip through the Grand Canyon and went missing after a flash flood, a park spokeswoman said Thursday. (John Dillon via AP)

Tectonic activity along the Rocky Mountains and the Colorado Plateau caused a lot of what we see today, but weather had a pretty big role, too. The Colorado River became powerful after the top layers of rock eroded away, the water flooded and cut through more layers of rock. What was left behind is 277 miles of mile-deep winding canyons.

Antelope Canyon

Just east of Page Arizona within the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation is home to some amazing sandstone wonders that, like the Grand Canyon, were carved during some pretty intense flash floods. It was once home to herds of pronghorn antelope, but now it’s the 120-foot-tall winding canyon walls that resemble the prongs atop a buck’s head that leave many people in awe after visiting.

A white band of newly-exposed rock along the canyon walls at Lake Powell highlights the difference between today's lake level and the lake's high-water mark near Antelope Point Marina on Friday, July 30, 2021, near Page, Ariz. This summer, the water levels hit a historic low amid a climate change-fueled megadrought engulfing the U.S. West. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

In addition to the shape, when the light shines through the crevices it illuminates the red hues in the swirling sandstone, making it truly a natural piece of art.

The Wave

The sandstone dunes in Marble Canyon Arizona are a nature photographers dream come true.

FILE - This May 28, 2013 file photo shows a on a rock formation known as The Wave in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in Arizona. Outdoor enthusiasts and nature photographers hoping to explore the colorful, contoured landscape of the hugely popular trail in the U.S. Southwest will now have a better chance at landing one of the elusive permits after the U.S. government Monday, Jan. 11,2021 tripled the number of daily visitors allowed. (AP Photo/Brian Witte, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Formed 190 million years ago, these dunes have calcified turning into hardened compacted rock over the years. The beautiful browns and cinnamon reddish hues have been carved out by slow wind and rain erosion, leaving behind a wave-like appearance. These dunes are very susceptible to damage, especially by humans. That’s why only 20 people a day are allowed to walk through the ravine. Permits are actually required to do this.

Rainbow Mountain

Located just over 60 miles outside Cusco, Peru, the almost 4-mile-high mountain is one of Mother Nature’s gems only a few get to see because of its remote location.

Rainbow Mountain is part of the Andes mountain range formed by the sideways and downward movement of the edge of a plate of the Earth’s crust under another. What makes it so spectacular is the color from which it gets its name. That’s right, it’s a rainbow of color due to the environment altering the minerals found in the sediment. For example, bright yellows are due to trace minerals like iron sulfide, and the deep reds would indicate layers of sediment with iron oxide or rust.

Duna Frederico Kirbus

If you like to sand board, have we got the dunes for you! Catamarca Argentina is the home to the tallest sand dune in the world.

Duna Frederico Kirbus is 4,035 feet tall, roughly the same height as Mount Sunflower in Kansas and just a little taller than Mount Ka’ala in Oahu. These mountains of sand are formed when large amounts of sand are blown by the wind into a sheltered area and pile up, forming a dune.

The biggest dunes are often formed in deserts, like the ones found in Argentina, but can also be seen a bit closer to home in Death Valley.

Large sand dunes seen in Death Valley. (Credit: Paul Stone, U.S. Geological Survey. Public domain)

Yardangs of Xinjiang, China & The Lut Desert, Iran

What in the world is a yardang? Sounds like something out of this world, right? Well, it is, kind of. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Basically, these are streamlined hills carved by the wind from bedrock. Mega-yardangs that have huge flanks are coated with a thick layer of clay that’s rich in salt, made wet by rain that is very infrequent. China has a huge concentration of yardangs, adding up to 7,722 square miles. To put that into perspective, we did some math to compare it to a football field, which is roughly 2 acres if you include the immediate land around the field. This area in China adds up to the size of, wait for it, 2,471,040 football fields.

In Iran, the Lut Desert is famous being the one of the world’s hottest and driest deserts and for being dominated by mega-yardangs towering almost 200 feet in the air.

One more thing. Remember the out of this world reference? Well, turns out yardangs have also been found on Mars.

Yardangs on Mars taken from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Gran Salar de Uyuni

Bolivia is home to the world’s largest mirror. What? Well, technically it’s a salt flat, but add a little rain, and it looks like a huge mirror. The flat spans roughly 80 miles and is so bright white that it’s used by satellites orbiting the Earth to calibrate altimeters and radar. Yes, it can been seen from space.

Gran Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia seen while orbiting over South America. An astronaut on the International Space Station shot this photograph of the Atacama Desert and the numerous salt flats in the Andes Mountains along the border of Chile and Bolivia (NASA)

This flat was formed when prehistoric Lago Minchin dried up. The weird part is there’s actually water in the ground beneath it that evapotranspires and leaves behind salt of the surface. Beneath that salt layer is a lithium-rich brine that accounts for 70% of the world’s mined lithium.

The mirror effect post rain is really the bonus while visiting this salt flat. The lack of light allows for galaxies and stars to be seen easily by the naked eye. With the water on the salt flat acting as a mirror reflecting the world above, it’s made a picture perfect stage for both nature and space lovers all over the world.

Cotton Castle

No, these aren’t piles of cotton driven by the wind like the name kind of sounds like. Limestone terraces found in Pamukkale, Turkey aren’t soft at all. They are called cotton castles because they resemble a glacier, but it’s not ice. In fact, the limestone terraces are formed by mineral rich hot springs that formed over time.

PAMUKKALE, TURKEY - AUGUST,27 (RUSSIA OUT) Tourists bath and walk white terrace of travertine, a carbonate mineral left by flowing flowing water in Pamukkale, Denizli Province, on August 27, 2017 in Turkey. In 2014 Turkey had been rated the sixth most popular tourist destination in the World, welcoming 37 million visitors. In 2016 when Turkey was shaken by bombings, a failed military coup and a politcal crackdown, only 25 million came, according to the government. Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images) (2017 Mikhail Svetlov)

Mount Erebus

It’s not the volcano that brings extreme tourists to frigid Antarctica, that’s just part of the attraction. Sure, Mount Erebus is the most active southernmost volcano on Earth that towers over 12,000 feet in the air, but it’s what that is around the volcano that’s often photographed.

Fumaroles near Mount Erebus create ice formations when the steam is spewed into the Arctic air. (National Science Foundation; Michael Carrol and Rosaly Lopes)

Giant hollow ice towers. How they form is pretty cool. Fumaroles, or cracks in the crust around the volcano, spew steam into the arctic air and freezes it into place. Some of the ice chimney’s can be up to 60 feet tall and stay a consistent 32 degrees because of the gases.

Kawah Ijen

To wrap up nature’s weather wonders of the world, we bring you a blue volcano. No, the volcano in East Java Indonesia isn’t blue, but it’s been photographed with what looks like blue lava running down the slopes at night. Blue lava?

Well, it’s not the lava that’s blue. It’s the combustion of sulfuric gases that emerges from the cracks at extreme high pressure and temperatures up to 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit that create a glow when coming into contact with the air. It then ignites and shoots the blue flames up to 16 feet in the air. Some of the gases condense into liquid sulfur, which burns as it slides down the slopes, resembling blue lava.

BANYUWANGI, EAST JAVA - DECEMBER 15: Steam and acidic gases emerge from fumaroles at Kawah Ijen crater on December 15, 2011 in Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia. The Ijen crater rises to 2,386m, with a depth of over 175m, making it one of the world's largest craters. Sulphur mining is a major industry in the region, made possible by an active vent at the edge of a lake, but the work is not without risks. The acidity of the water in the crater is high enough to dissolve clothing and cause breathing problems. Miners carry the solidified yellow sulphur blocks from the crater floor to the rim for as many hours a day as they can tolerate, paid by the kilogram of sulphur they extract. A worker, depending on his strength and stamina, can carry on average 3 baskets of 70-80kg per day. (Photo by Athit Perawongmetha/Getty Images) (2011 Athit Perawongmetha)

About the Author:

Emmy Award Winning Meteorologist Samara Cokinos joined the News 6 team in September 2017. In her free time, she loves running and being outside.