At any given moment, Earth has about 2,000 thunderstorms going on. Each is a unique, mind-boggling symphony of wind and water, but they rarely draw much of an audience. Many thunderstorms form at sea or other remote places, but even near people, legitimate concerns about lightning, hail or tornadoes tend to put a damper on their performances.
When people do film thunderstorms, it's often because they're hoping to catch a tornado. But as a new time-lapse video reminds us, the giant storms of North America's Great Plains don't need funnel clouds to make them photogenic. Nicolaus Wegner, a landscape photographer known for his "Wyoming Wildscapes" videos, recently released hypnotic time-lapse footage of storm clouds rippling high above Wyoming and South Dakota.
Titled "Stormscapes," it's an enlightening look at these enormous storms, using the magic of time-lapse photography to reveal how they swirl and undulate across the sky. It also features dramatic imagery of shelf clouds, mammatus clouds and other thunderstorm structures. Check it out below, at full-size and in high-definition mode if possible:
"Stormscapes" has already been watched 78,000 times on Vimeo since Wegner released it a couple weeks ago, and if his previous videos are any indication — "Wyoming Wildscapes II" racked up 345,000 views in about two months — it still has a long way to go.
Wegner is a photographer by trade, not a meteorologist or even a regular storm chaser. In an interesting interview with National Geographic about his work, he explains the safety precautions he takes, like sticking to official roads and avoiding the cores of supercells, but admits that "in all honesty, it's dangerous being anywhere near these storms."
Still, the Plains' world-famous thunderstorms have a certain mystique Wegner seems compelled to share. And thanks to his efforts, we can all enjoy their majesty without risking our own lives. "There is nothing like watching one go from birth to thunderstorm to supercell," he says. "When you consider all of the elements and 'just right' conditions it takes to produce one of these storms, it's something worth being in awe over."