Superior Mirages of Farallon Islands and a Sea Bird

October 28, 2014

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Summary Authors: Mila Zinkova; Andrew Young
Shown above is a superior mirage of the Farallon Islands, off San Francisco, California. Click  the image to watch a video of this mirage. Note the very thin vertical line on the right-hand side of the image (at the 10 second mark). This is actually a mirage of a flying gull or some other sea bird. Superior mirages are often observed over large water bodies when a layer of relatively warm air overrides cooler sea water.

According to Dr. Andrew Young of San Diego State University what we're seeing is a bird that's initially miraged as a vertical line. We then see it when it descends a little and moves into a less distorted part of the inversion field. It's quite surprising that the mirage was strong enough to distort this bird, which obviously was much closer to the camera than the islands.