Fata Morgana/Superior Mirage, Alaska imaged by Doug Short. Scroll to the right for the full panorama.

"   ...a telephoto shot taken January 23, 2010 from Anchorage at 11:30 with the sun at about 7° above the horizon. The background mountains are the northern part of the Aleutian Range and average 90 miles or so from Anchorage. The photo looks across the ice choked northern portion of Cook Inlet. The day was a bit hazy but the tops of the mountains were quite distorted so I took a shot from around 600 ft. above sea level."
ęDoug Short, shown with permission.
Atmospheric
Optics

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These mirages are produced by abnormally cold air air trapped beneath warmer - a temperature inversion.

Light rays slanting upwards across the cold-to-warm air boundary are refracted back down again if the temperature gradients are strong. The result is that distant features near to the ground appear in the sky. This is the behaviour of an ordinary 'superior' mirage.

Particular temperature profiles in the inversion can instead produce the towering column-like architectural features, 'castles in the air', characteristic of the fabled Fata Morgan mirage. This Alaskan mirage has some Fata Morgana features.


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