That’s not an iceberg, it’s a superior mirage

Simone Engels saw something bright on the horizon while taking photos from a beach on Vancouver Island, near the Strait of Georgia — so she took a picture and zoomed in to see what looked like a giant glacier. The object remained on the horizon for a full half hour, and when she posted the photo on social media, everyone was convinced it was an iceberg — even a friend who’d studied iceberg geomorphology for her PhD. “I was very stumped,” Engels told the CBC. “We don’t generally see icebergs here.” But it was not an iceberg — it was a mirage.

“It’s not an iceberg,” said Colin Goldblatt, an associate professor of atmospheric science at the University of Victoria. “It’s a beautiful photograph, and what we’re seeing is a lovely example of a superior mirage.” He explained that this kind of mirage is possible during an atmospheric inversion, when warm air is sitting on top of a layer of cooler air, causing the light to bend downward. What Engels was seeing was the peaks of the Cheam Range near Chilliwack, more than 180 kilometres away. Normally, these mountains would be on the other side of the horizon, hidden by the Earth’s curvature.

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