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Forked lightning in White Sands MonumentPhoto: Erin Curry

White dunes roll away into the distance like giant snow drifts; then lightning flashes, illuminating the silvery peaks, so that momentarily they seem to glow. However, despite appearances, snow here is unlikely. This is the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, and what we see are granules of gypsum piled up in waves across the landscape. White Sands is, in fact, part of the biggest gypsum dune field on the planet. It’s an incredible sight at any time but is made doubly stunning during a lightning storm.

Lightning with colored sky at White SandsPhoto: Thomas Mauer

As the sky lights up with impressive displays of electrostatic discharge, the contrast between the bright white desert below and the dark storm clouds above is even more breathtaking. In this photograph, the color of the sun through the clouds adds yet another beautiful dimension to the scene. Photographer Thomas Mauer captured this stormy image in August during the summer monsoon.

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Long lightning boltPhoto: Craig Hough

In this awesome photograph, a bolt of lightning shoots down to earth from a high cloud, branching off as it goes. Hazy mountains are visible behind the bolt, while the white of the clouds is mirrored in the color of the sand. Incredibly, there are plants that grow in this seemingly inhospitable environment; they can be seen here dotting the white dunes.

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