A strange phenomenon on the Pembrokeshire Coast

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Adrian Owens got in touch recently regarding a strange phenomenon which he saw on the Pembrokeshire Coast on the weekend of 13/14 July 2013.

These photographs show some of the Islands, Grassholm and the Bishops and Clerks off Ramsey Island.

South Bishop island. Photo: Adrian Owens

The Bishops and Clerks. Photo: Adrian Owens

The land mass appears to be mirrored, either entirely or partially in the sky. The same was true with ships on the horizon, which appeared to be two or three times bigger than they actually were.

What is happening is a manifestation of a 'superior mirage' - a phenomenon which occurs when the air below the line of sight is much cooler than the air above - i.e. a classic inversion scenario.

The light rays from the distant object e.g. the island or ship, are bent back downwards towards the observer as they encounter the inversion meaning that the observer sees the image above the horizon - sometimes inverted and sometimes the right way up.

Grassholm island, like you've never seen it before. Photo: Adrian Owens

When the photographs were taken there were unusually warm conditions over Wales and the sea temperature would have been around 15 to 16°C.

As the warm air spilled off the land and glided over the much colder layer over the sea (in light wind conditions to prevent mixing of the layers) it would have led to a very strong temperature inversion providing ideal conditions for such a mirage.

A big thank you to Adrian for sharing his photographs and to Martin Young from the Met Office.

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