The best photos of the natural world in 2023

Litli Hrútur volcano in Iceland erupting in July 2023

KRISTINN MAGNUSSON/AFP via Getty Images

Sizzling lava spurts out of Iceland’s Litli Hrútur volcano in this fiery scene captured by photographer Kristinn Magnusson. The volcano began erupting on 10 July, the day this photograph was taken, which marked the third time in just two years that lava has flowed from the Fagradalsfjall volcanic area in south-west Iceland.

A fossil flower in amber

Carola Radke, MfN (Museum für Naturkunde Berlin)

This gorgeously preserved fossil reveals the moment when a five-petalled Symplocos kowalewskii flower released its pollen more than 33.9 million years ago. At roughly 28 millimetres in diameter, the specimen is the largest amber-encased flower ever found. It was first unearthed in 1872 and was finally described in detail by a pair of scientists in January 2023 – more than 150 years after its discovery.

A “superbloom” of wildflowers in California

Mario Tama/Getty Images

A remarkably wet winter in California resulted in this spectacular “superbloom” of wildflowers in April. At the Carrizo Plain National Monument, Mario Tama snapped some walkers among the golden blossoms, which include fiddlenecks (Amsinckia) and California goldfields (Lasthenia californica). A slew of atmospheric river storms – thin strips of concentrated moisture in the air – contributed to the state’s historic levels of rainfall.

A lenticular cloud over the crater of the Villarrica volcano in Chile

Francisco Negroni/Weather Photographer of the Year

An extraordinary, immense lenticular cloud looms over Villarrica, one of the most active volcanoes in Chile, in this shot. The lava in the crater illuminates the cloud from below, giving it a vibrant orange glow. Lenticular clouds are a stationary type of cloud that often look like flying saucers. Photographer Francisco Negroni exposed his camera for four minutes to take the picture.

Running Springs, California, after a snowstorm in March 2023

David McNew/Getty Images

In March, a massive snowstorm swept through parts of southern California. The barrage of blizzards dumped more than 2.5 metres of snow in some areas and trapped hundreds of people in their homes for weeks. In this shot by photographer David McNew, a resident of Running Springs called Robert Hallmark attempts to clear the thick snow surrounding his house.

Satellite view of Krakatoa volcano in Indonesia

COPERNICUS SENTINEL 2

Plumes of white and brown ash stream from Indonesia’s infamous Krakatoa volcano in a striking aerial view captured by the Sentinel-2 satellite on 12 May. Krakatoa started another eruption cycle in September, marked by intensifying volcanic activity.

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