The Weather Network
May. 28, 2022 | Saturday
Local News
Blurred lines: Superior mirage distorts Toronto skyline
A superior mirage can be seen across Lake Ontario. The effect is more common in spring when the air warms more quickly than water. (Richard Harley/Niagara Now)

It’s seems like a glimpse into what could be the future — one where the Toronto skyline is completely packed with buildings, but as if the building code stipulated that the CN Tower must still poke through the top.

As spectators gathered to watch the sunset over the past week in Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Ryerson Park, that’s basically what they saw, with a massive skyway running the behind it.  

The strange sight, which has appeared periodically in recent weeks, is actually called a superior mirage. And, although it’s one of the less common types of mirage, it isn’t so strange, according to Canadian academic Keith Heidorn, PhD.

Heidorn has more than 35 years of experience in meteorology, climatology and air quality assessment and education.

A member of the American Meteorological Society and the Canadian Meteorology and Oceanographic Society, he is the author of several educational books about weather, and is the producer and author of The Weather Doctor website.

On his website, Heidorn says superior mirage refers to the image appearing above the actual object, compared with the inferior mirage which appears below.

The effect is the result of what’s called a temperature inversion. It’s when a large body of warm air — below the line of sight — is sitting above a layer of colder air. The warm air distorts light rays, bending them down and causing an inverted image, like some sort of fun house mirror.

What we see is actually behind the city, or what’s normally out of view behind the curvature of the earth.

Basically, Toronto is all smooshed up against the skyline.

The effect called Fata Morgana in Italian, shows distant objects and features at the horizon which appear as spikes or towers rising from the surface.