Mother Nature is equally capable of awe-inspiring beauty as she is breath-taking terror – oftentimes, at the same moment.
2016 saw no shortage of terrifying, awe-inspiring natural disasters: be it the devastating wildfire in Fort McMurray, the earthquakes in Italy, Ecuador, and New Zealand, or the floods that effected much of the U.S. east coast.
But not all natural phenomena need be disasters, but simply some sort of scientific curiosity; the flow of lava hitting the ocean, the timelapse of a snowstorm at a Hawaiian observatory, the opening of a massive sinkhole, or simply the effect of an icy hill on several Montreal cars.
These are the most compelling natural phenomena of 2016 caught on camera.
Residents flee the devastation of the Fort McMurray wildfire
Thousands of people were forced from their homes in May in what ended up becoming the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta history.
And while there was no shortage of compelling video to choose here – including Reid Fiest’s live report as the fire encroached on the city, which was recently named by YouTube as one of the top trending videos of 2016 – we chose something more personal.
The video posted above shows one family’s desperate flight from the city on May 4, capturing both the massive scale of the fire and how close so many residents came to the blaze which would come to be known as “The Beast.”
The fire spread across approximately 590,000 hectares before firefighters finally brought it under control.
Multiple tornadoes devastate Southwestern Ontario
An EF1-category tornado hit the bedroom community of LaSalle on August 24, with wind speeds between 135 and 175 kilometres per hour.
A second twister, this one an EF2-category with winds between 200 and 220 kilometres per hour, struck Windsor shortly afterward.
Environment Canada confirmed that no warning was issued to the public as there was no indication that a tornado was imminent.
Witnesses said the winds blew the roofs off homes and uprooted multiple trees.
Lava from Hawaii volcano cascades into sea in vivid display
For the first time in three years, lava from a volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island crept down miles of mountainside and into the Pacific Ocean, where it created a stunning show for visitors this past August.
The 2,000-degree molten rock is from Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Its Puu Oo vent began erupting in the 1980s and periodically pushes enough lava seaward that people can access it.
On Aug. 9, a second branch of lava started to spill into the ocean, giving tourists a look at two lava flows about 200 yards apart.
“Just to have one drip (of lava) touching the ocean is awesome,” Lava Ocean Tours owner Shane Turpin told the Associated Press. “But to get a show like you’re getting this morning, well, it sets the bar pretty high for a second trip.”
Montreal transit buses, cars, trucks slam into each other in winter weather
This may not have been entirely nature’s fault but this certainly is our most relatable video of the year for most Canadians.
Two transit buses, a police car, a snow plough and several cars spun out and smashed into each other, seemingly unable to navigate the wintry weather in Montreal on December 5.
According to Montreal police spokesperson Raphael Bergeron, there were no injuries.
Snowborder gets caught inside avalanche
Christian Mares, 29, was snowboarding with friends Jan. 15 at Sugar Bowl Resort in Norden, Calif. near Lake Tahoe, when he was engulfed by cascading snow.
Mares recorded the incident on a head-mounted camera, which captures him jumping off a peak onto a slope below.
As he lands, a friend’s camera shows the layers of ice and snow give way and begin to carry Mares down the hill. Mares’ head cam recorded the harrowing experience from inside the avalanche, as he struggled to stay at the surface.
But despite his close call – and resulting viral fame after posting the video online – the resort was not happy with Mares and his friends skiing in a “very active avalanche area.”
“Mares put himself, his friends, ski patrol and the skiing public at risk,” said John Monson, marketing director for the ski resort.
Alberta man triggers, drives into an avalanche
Christian Mares wasn’t the only person to record compelling footage during an avalanche this year.
An Alberta man said he “won the lottery” on February 7 when an avalanche slid under his snowmobile, he was not injured, and caught it all on camera.
Freeman was at Bullmoose Mountain in B.C., near the town of Tumbler Ridge, with a group of friends. The rider had separated from the group and was doing a low-incline climb when the slope started to slide.
“At first I didn’t know why I was slowing down,” Freeman told Global News. “I kind of got caught up in the moment. I was so convinced that it wasn’t going to slide that I initially thought a big crevasse had opened in front of me.”
Earthquakes devastate central Italy
Entire towns were reduced to rubble after a powerful earthquake devastated a string of mountain towns in central Italy on August 24, killing over 200 people and leaving thousands homeless.
The magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck in the early hours of the morning about 140 kilometres east of Rome, as people’s homes crumbled around them.
The hardest-hit was the tiny town of Amatrice. The town, which was voted as one of Italy‘s most beautiful historic towns just last year, was flattened by the quake; an image one survivor described as a scene from Dante’s Inferno.
Earthquakes hit New Zealand
The powerful earthquake that rocked New Zealand on November 12 triggered landslides and a small tsunami, damaged roads and homes and left two people dead, but largely spared the country the devastation it saw five years ago.
The magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the South Island just after midnight in a mostly rural area that’s dotted with small towns. Near the epicenter, it opened up snaking fissures in roads and sparked landslides.
The quake caused damage in Wellington, the capital, more than 200 kilometres (120 miles) to the north. The earthquake was also in the city of Christchurch, which was devastated by an earthquake in 2011 that killed 185 people. Residents said the shaking went on for about three minutes.
Earthquake devastates Ecuador
The magnitude 7.8 earthquake on April 16 was Ecuador’s worst natural disaster in decades, killing 661 and leaving more than 28,000 people homeless. It was followed by hundreds of aftershocks, at least five of them of magnitude 6.0 or higher.
The earthquake hit the cities of Manta, Portoviejo and Guayaquil, the hardest though they were all several hundred kilometres from the epicenter of the quake that struck shortly after nightfall.
One resident captured footage, seen above, of the moment the quake struck as they took shelter inside a supermarket.
Timelapse video captures snowstorm on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea
This timelapse, captured by the Canada France Hawaii Telescope, showing a snowstorm on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea piqued the curiosity of thousands around the world.
Yes, it snows in Hawaii, Matthew Foster, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu, said he had to explain to some surprised out-of-state callers.
“Typically when we get these snow events, it does get a lot of attention,” he said, adding that he explains to curious callers that the snow is falling in a small, remote area where there are mainly telescopes and scientists. “We do have very high mountains here.”
2 injured after mass of snow falls off mosque in Turkey
The first major winter storm of the season in Turkey was blamed for injuring two pedestrians this past January in the Black Sea coastal city of Rize.
Crowds of people were sent running when an avalanche of snow fell from the roof a mosque, burying two people.
The moment was caught by a security camera, which recorded passersby coming to the rescue, attempting to uncover the buried victims.
-With files from Global News and the Associated Press