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'Monster' storms and frozen bison: The most spectacular weather photos of 2020

Lightning cracks the sky over Mallorca Spain. According to photographer Marc Marco Ripoll, "I tried many times to catch a good lightning strike behind this rock called Sa Foradada, but every time I tried, the conditions were not so good. This night I knew that a big storm was approaching Mallorca and all the conditions were perfect. I don't remember if the moon was full, but I remember that it was very big. This was perfect, because the moon was going to illuminate all the land and the sea and gives more color to the scene. I chose my composition, and I shot many pictures until the storm fell on me. To see the storm and the lightning that night was something amazing."
(Image: © Marc Marco Ripoll)

On October 17, the Royal Meteorological Society announced the winners of its annual weather photographer of the year contest, co-sponsored by AccuWeather. The judges picked 26 images from among more than 7,700, highlighting some of the most epic storms, glorious rainbows and living wonders of nature to cross a camera lens over the last year. Below are some of our favorite submissions.

Blizzards

Tourists shudder on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City during a strong blizzard. According to photographer Rudolf Sulgan, the powerful blizzard was amplified by climate change. "I made this image in 2018, during a strong blizzard as El Nino’s periodic warming of water often disrupts normal weather patterns," Sulgan told the RMS. "My main concern and inspiration is that my images hopefully do a small part in combating climate change." This photo was awarded the top prize in the 2020 RMS photo contest.

(Image credit: Rudolf Sulgan)

Tourists shudder on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City during a strong blizzard. According to photographer Rudolf Sulgan, the powerful blizzard was amplified by climate change. "I made this image in 2018, during a strong blizzard as El Nino’s periodic warming of water often disrupts normal weather patterns," Sulgan told the RMS. "My main concern and inspiration is that my images hopefully do a small part in combating climate change." This photo was awarded the top prize in the 2020 RMS photo contest.

Sa Foradada storm

Lightning cracks the sky over Mallorca Spain. According to photographer Marc Marco Ripoll, "I tried many times to catch a good lightning strike behind this rock called Sa Foradada, but every time I tried, the conditions were not so good. This night I knew that a big storm was approaching Mallorca and all the conditions were perfect. I don't remember if the moon was full, but I remember that it was very big. This was perfect, because the moon was going to illuminate all the land and the sea and gives more color to the scene. I chose my composition, and I shot many pictures until the storm fell on me. To see the storm and the lightning that night was something amazing."

(Image credit: Marc Marco Ripoll)

Lightning cracks the sky over Mallorca Spain. According to photographer Marc Marco Ripoll, "I tried many times to catch a good lightning strike behind this rock called Sa Foradada, but every time I tried, the conditions were not so good. This night I knew that a big storm was approaching Mallorca and all the conditions were perfect. I don't remember if the moon was full, but I remember that it was very big. This was perfect, because the moon was going to illuminate all the land and the sea and gives more color to the scene. I chose my composition, and I shot many pictures until the storm fell on me. To see the storm and the lightning that night was something amazing."

Frosty bison

A bison lumbers through Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park in winter. Photographer Laura Hedien writes: "We were touring the west side of the Park. It was near zero degrees Fahrenheit. We came around the corner in our snow coach and saw this magnificent bison just sauntering down the road as if they owned the Park, and they do! Keeping the required distance we hopped out, grabbed some photos, and quickly got back in the vehicle and watched as she/he walked about five feet right past us."

(Image credit: Laura Hedien)

Tea hills

The tea hills of Phu Tho Province, Vietnam bask in morning light. Photographer Vu Trung Huan says: "Long Coc tea hill has mysterious and strange features when the sun is not yet up. Hidden in the morning mist, the green color of tea leaves still stands out. Early in the morning, holding a cup of tea, taking a breath of fresh air, Watching the gentle green stretches of green tea hills. It is true that nothing is equal!"

(Image credit: Vu Trung Huan)

The tea hills of Phu Tho Province, Vietnam bask in morning light. Photographer Vu Trung Huan says: "Long Coc tea hill has mysterious and strange features when the sun is not yet up. Hidden in the morning mist, the green color of tea leaves still stands out. Early in the morning, holding a cup of tea, taking a breath of fresh air, Watching the gentle green stretches of green tea hills. It is true that nothing is equal!"

Lavaredo's gloria

Photographer Alessandro Cantarelli ascended the Three Peaks of Lavaredo in the Italian Dolomite mountains on a sunny morning, but was soon flooded with fog. Late that night, he beheld something marvelous. Cantarelli writes: "At about 23:00 the fog curtain lifted to what I can consider one of the most beautiful shows I have ever seen in my life, the madness of the Three Peaks of Lavaredo illuminated by a powerful moon, with Jupiter on his right, above the highest peak, where I could see the headlights of climbers who climbed quickly to enjoy this magic."

(Image credit: Alessandro Cantarelli)

Photographer Alessandro Cantarelli ascended the Three Peaks of Lavaredo in the Italian Dolomite mountains on a sunny morning, but was soon flooded with fog. Late that night, he beheld something marvelous. Cantarelli writes: "At about 23:00 the fog curtain lifted to what I can consider one of the most beautiful shows I have ever seen in my life, the madness of the Three Peaks of Lavaredo illuminated by a powerful moon, with Jupiter on his right, above the highest peak, where I could see the headlights of climbers who climbed quickly to enjoy this magic."

Pinnacles of light

Rainbows slant out of the rocky shores of the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. Photographer Richard Fox Writes: "My wife and I visited the Isle of Harris and Lewis on holiday for a week. One evening, after a day out on Lewis, we stopped off at Mangersta sea stacks one evening. It was pretty windy on the cliff tops, making long exposures quite challenging. All of a sudden a few rain showers passed over as the late evening light broke though, providing an amazing set of rainbows!"

(Image credit: Richard Fox)

Rainbows slant out of the rocky shores of the Isle of Lewis in Scotland. Photographer Richard Fox Writes: "My wife and I visited the Isle of Harris and Lewis on holiday for a week. One evening, after a day out on Lewis, we stopped off at Mangersta sea stacks one evening. It was pretty windy on the cliff tops, making long exposures quite challenging. All of a sudden a few rain showers passed over as the late evening light broke though, providing an amazing set of rainbows!"

Cloud Attack

A storm rears its fearsome head over Umag, Croatia. Photographer Maja Kraljik writes: "This monster shelf cloud was perhaps the most beautiful structure and size over my area. I was waiting for two hours for the cloud to arrive and then it made a real mess."

(Image credit: Maja Kraljik)

A storm rears its fearsome head over Umag, Croatia. Photographer Maja Kraljik writes: "This monster shelf cloud was perhaps the most beautiful structure and size over my area. I was waiting for two hours for the cloud to arrive and then it made a real mess."

The red terror

Photographer Tori Jane Ostberg writes: "An incredible EF2 tornado tears through a rural Colorado field after destroying a home. This tornado marked my very first day of my very first great plains storm chase adventure, and it was only a sign of the incredible things to come."

(Image credit: Tori Jane Ostberg)

Photographer Tori Jane Ostberg writes: "An incredible EF2 tornado tears through a rural Colorado field after destroying a home. This tornado marked my very first day of my very first great plains storm chase adventure, and it was only a sign of the incredible things to come."

Frozen life

The winner of this year's young weather photographer category shows a leaf frozen in a lake in Russia. Photographer Kolesnik Stephanie Sergeevna, age 17, writes: " The photo is of a leaf stuck in the ice. Figurally, this is a print of summer on winter. I wanted to take this shot because… It looks like frozen life. Time seems to have stopped for this leaf"

(Image credit: Kolesnik Stephanie Sergeevna)

The winner of this year's young weather photographer category shows a leaf frozen in a lake in Russia. Photographer Kolesnik Stephanie Sergeevna, age 17, writes: " The photo is of a leaf stuck in the ice. Figurally, this is a print of summer on winter. I wanted to take this shot because… It looks like frozen life. Time seems to have stopped for this leaf"

Final stand

An epic dust storm bears down on Phoenix, Arizona. Photographer Tina Wright Writes: "This was one of the top two largest haboobs (dust storms) ever recorded in the state of Arizona. At the point of this photo it was fully mature, towering over a mile high with winds in excess of 80 miles per hour. The sun was setting, giving the dust wall it's deep pink hue. It was a truly incredible sight to see!"

(Image credit: Tina Wright)

An epic dust storm bears down on Phoenix, Arizona. Photographer Tina Wright  Writes: "This was one of the top two largest haboobs (dust storms) ever recorded in the state of Arizona. At the point of this photo it was fully mature, towering over a mile high with winds in excess of 80 miles per hour. The sun was setting, giving the dust wall it's deep pink hue. It was a truly incredible sight to see!"

Dam wet

Water cascades down the dam wall of Wet Sleddale reservoir near Cumbria, UK after a period of heavy rainfall. Photographer Andrew McCaren writes: "Whilst trying to visualize the heavy rainfall of March 2019, Wet Sleddale dam came to mind. I have driven past Wet Sleddale dam many times and seen it dry even after prolonged rainfall, but thought I would take a chance. After a 4:30am start and a 2-and-a-half-hour drive from my home in Leeds to Cumbria, I made it to the location an remember shouting 'yes, yes, yes,' as I saw the water pouring down the spillway."

(Image credit: Andrew McCaren)

Water cascades down the dam wall of Wet Sleddale reservoir near Cumbria, UK after a period of heavy rainfall. Photographer Andrew McCaren writes: "Whilst trying to visualize the heavy rainfall of March 2019, Wet Sleddale dam came to mind. I have driven past Wet Sleddale dam many times and seen it dry even after prolonged rainfall, but thought I would take a chance. After a 4:30am start and a 2-and-a-half-hour drive from my home in Leeds to Cumbria, I made it to the location an remember shouting 'yes, yes, yes,' as I saw the water pouring down the spillway."

Trees and fog

Ghostly trees dance out of the fog in Colorado's Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. Photographer Preston Stoll writes: "On the morning after a bitterly cold night in December, I left Steamboat Springs in search of frost and any winter weather I could find. I wandered the roads and forests near the edge of the morning snow showers to find where interesting transitions in weather might be seen. This was the last photo of many taken that morning and my favorite by far. The fog bank behind the frosted trees isolates the small grove and creates a wonderfully minimalistic scene."

(Image credit: Preston Stoll)

Ghostly trees dance out of the fog in Colorado's Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. Photographer Preston Stoll writes: "On the morning after a bitterly cold night in December, I left Steamboat Springs in search of frost and any winter weather I could find. I wandered the roads and forests near the edge of the morning snow showers to find where interesting transitions in weather might be seen. This was the last photo of many taken that morning and my favorite by far. The fog bank behind the frosted trees isolates the small grove and creates a wonderfully minimalistic scene."

Steel star

On a foggy day in Saint-Petersburg, photographer Yuriy Stolypin arrived at the Lakhta Center (Europe's largest skyscraper) and sent a drone high into the air. Stolypin writes: "I wanted to take a photo of the tallest skyscraper in Europe, shrouded in morning fog. I regularly monitored the weather and looked into the city cameras to make sure that all shooting conditions were favorable for the intended shot, since I live very far from the shooting location. When everything coincided, early in the morning I called a taxi, arrived at the skyscraper, raised the drone as high as possible and took this picture.

(Image credit: Yuriy Stolypin )

On a foggy day in Saint-Petersburg, photographer Yuriy Stolypin arrived at the Lakhta Center (Europe's largest skyscraper) and sent a drone high into the air. Stolypin writes: "I wanted to take a photo of the tallest skyscraper in Europe, shrouded in morning fog. I regularly monitored the weather and looked into the city cameras to make sure that all shooting conditions were favorable for the intended shot, since I live very far from the shooting location. When everything coincided, early in the morning I called a taxi, arrived at the skyscraper, raised the drone as high as possible and took this picture.

Originally published on Live Science.