If you like, you can simply feast your eyes on KAIBAB ELEGY the magnificent time-lapse photography of clouds in the Grand Canyon. In fact, we recommend it. However, the video below comes with a serious message.
First, the science. It can get chilly in the Grand Canyon, with sunlight blocked much of the day. Cold air can be trapped beneath a layer of warm air, producing a temperature inversion. Combined with sufficient moisture this becomes a “full cloud inversion”. Although this phenomenon occurs in other places as well, nowhere does it like the Grand Canyon. Watch for the ridge-hopping clouds at 27 seconds.
A cloud inversion, particularly one as complete as seen at the end of the video, is not common. “We were extremely lucky to be there to capture it," Harun Mehmedinovic, one-half of the skyglowproject team who took the images, told IFLScience. "It only happens one day a year on average. There have been a few years when it didn't happen at all.”
The film combines images taken on several trips over a two-year period. Anyone wishing to experience the effect for themselves is advised to go between mid-November and January, when their chances will be highest. Of course, if you go and miss it, you still get to see the Grand Canyon, so things could be worse.
For Mehmedinovic, the trip to the Canyon was more than just sightseeing. Mehmedinovic and Gavin Heffernan are traveling the world with the Skyglow Project, using time-lapse photography to bring awareness of the loss of dark skies.
Light emitted by streetlights and other human activities is taking away our view of the night sky, to the extent that many people never get to experience the wonder of seeing the Milky Way under truly dark skies. While some skyglow is an inevitable part of our modern lifestyle, much of it could be avoided by changing the sorts of lights we use, and adjusting them so that light is better directed. After all, every photon of light impeding our view of the stars by bouncing off atmospheric dust is one that is not illuminating our journey home or helping us read as intended.
The name of the video comes from the Kaibab Plateau north of the Canyon. Mehmedinovic told IFLScience the elegy is for the “dark sky disappearance from the world”. The Grand Canyon is one of the last recognized dark sky sites in the United States but is under threat from the lights of Las Vegas and Phoenix.