Cloudy with a chance of awesome: freak weather turns Grand Canyon into sea of clouds

These breath-taking pictures show the moment a freak weather event turned the Grand Canyon into a sea of clouds.

The rare weather, which is called a total temperature inversion, caused the 6,000 foot deep ravine in Colorado to fill up with a thick layer of cloud, seemingly dense enough to walk on.

The dense formation of clouds, which occurs when cold air at the bottom of the 277 mile (446 km) long chasm is trapped by a layer of warm air at the top, is so rare, it is only known to happen once or twice a decade.

The rare weather is called a total temperature inversion

The rare weather is called a total temperature inversion

According to the National Park Service, the weather event is totally unique to the Grand Canyon, with it often taking days for the cloud to fully clear.

Temperatures at the bottom of the gorge often fall below zero degrees during winter, which, when mixed with the warm moist air on top creates the cascading waterfalls of clouds.

Thought to be formed at least 17 million years ago by the Colorado River, the stunning sea of clouds last filled the canyon in December 2013.
A time lapse video released by the National Park service shows the cloud slowly pervading the canyon, totally obscuring it from view, before receding to the depths to reveal its famous beauty.

It occurs when cold air at the bottom of the 277 mile (446 km) long chasm is trapped by a layer of warm air at the top

It occurs when cold air at the bottom of the 277 mile (446 km) long chasm is trapped by a layer of warm air at the top

A spokesperson for Grand Canyon National Park said: “Ground inversions at Grand Canyon are a sight to behold; clouds fill the canyon with sunny, blue skies at the rim.

“The topography of Grand Canyon enhances the effect of inversions creating the dramatic views of a sea of fog and clouds seemingly dense enough to walk out on.

“Ground inversions occur when cold air is trapped by a layer of warm air.

“On clear, cold nights ground temperatures cool rapidly. Air in contact with cold surfaces cools and sinks.

“At Grand Canyon cold, moist air drops into the canyon forming cascading “waterfalls” of clouds pouring down the rim filling the canyon.

“Warm air above the rim holds the clouds in place until enough solar radiation is received to warm the surface of the rocks, heating the cold, dense clouds in the canyon causing them to rise.

“Visitors at Grand Canyon during an inversion are challenged to be patient.

“Waiting out the warming process is well worth the effort; when the clouds start to lift the currents of air swirl and turn on themselves parting like curtains to reveal bursts of colour and light, a breath-taking spectacle.”