From Science Alert: “An Incredible ‘Firefall’ Is Lighting Up Yosemite Right Now”

ScienceAlert

Science Alert

17 FEB 2017
DAVID NIELD

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Sangeeta Dey

Only when conditions are right.

There’s no shortage of beautiful views in Yosemite National Park but the “firefall” phenomenon has a wow factor all of its own – where rivers of molten lava appear to be flowing down the park’s El Capitan rock face.

What you’re seeing is not actually molten lava, but regular water lit up by the Sun in a way that only happens for a few days in the middle of February each year.

Photographer Ray Lee captured the glorious sight last year and has been back this year to take more breathtaking shots of the firefall.

“This trip almost didn’t happen due to the crazy road conditions at Yosemite,” Lee writes. “There has been so much water that a lot of the roads were closed due to mudslides.”

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“For those that plan on going to see this, be careful since there has been so much water that some of the roads are falling apart.”

Other travellers have been venturing to get a site of El Capitan and posting their own firefall shots, including Alice Thieu and Sangeeta Dey.

“This year, I feel fortunate to have been one of the first to witness it,” writes Dey on her Instagram page.

The subject of the photos is the Horsetail Fall, which drops 305 metres (1,000 feet) down the east side of El Capitan. What makes the firefall even rarer is that the Horsetail Fall isn’t always flowing, depending on snowfall and water supply.

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Horsetail Falls

“As the Sun’s rays moved towards the fall, I saw the colour of the water changing,” Dey told National Geographic. “As [the waterfall] glowed in yellows, oranges and reds, I realised I had tears flowing down. It was a very emotional moment for me.”

Dey wisely chose to use a remote control to capture the images so she could also see the phenomenon for herself, not just behind a camera lens.

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The name of the event is borrowed from a genuine firefall that happened regularly in Yosemite between 1872 and 1968. This one wasn’t natural though: the owners of the Glacier Point Hotel would throw burning embers down the 975-metre (3,200-foot) Glacier Point cliff to the valley below to entertain campers and hikers.

That practice was eventually stopped because of the huge number of onlookers who would trample the meadows of Yosemite to get a look at the show, but nature has provided a much more special replacement.

“There are some things you just need to experience in person,” says Axle Ethington, and we don’t disagree.

See the full article here .

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