Rain of animals

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Rain of fish in Singapore, as described by local inhabitants
Raining snakes, 1680.

Raining animals is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which flightless animals "rain" from the sky. Such occurrences have been reported in many countries throughout history. One hypothesis offered to explain this phenomenon is that strong winds traveling over water sometimes pick up creatures such as fish or frogs, and carry them for up to several miles.[1] However, this primary aspect of the phenomenon has never been witnessed or scientifically tested.

The English language idiom, "It is raining cats and dogs" (referring to a heavy downpour), is of uncertain etymology, and there is no evidence that it has any connection to the "raining animals" phenomenon.

History[edit]

Rain of flightless animals and objects has been reported throughout history. In the first century AD, Roman naturalist Pliny The Elder documented storms of frogs and fishes.[citation needed] In 1794, French soldiers witnessed fall of toads from the sky during heavy rain at Lalain, near the French city of Lille.[citation needed] In 1857, people from Lake County in California reported fall of sugar crystals from the sky.[citation needed] In March 2010, spangled perch fell out of the sky over a remote desert town in the Australian outback.[2]

Explanations[edit]

Tornadoes may lift up animals into the air and deposit them miles away.

French physicist André-Marie Ampère was among the first scientists to take seriously accounts of raining animals. He tried to explain rains of frogs with a hypothesis that was accepted by other scientists of the day. Speaking in front of the Society of Natural Sciences, Ampère suggested that at times frogs and toads roam the countryside in large numbers, and that the action of violent winds can pick them up and carry them great distances.[3]

Sometimes the animals survive the fall, suggesting the animals are dropped shortly after extraction. Several witnesses of raining frogs describe the animals as startled, though healthy, and exhibiting relatively normal behavior shortly after the event. In some incidents, however, the animals are frozen to death or even completely encased in ice. There are examples where the product of the rain is not intact animals, but shredded body parts. Some cases occur just after storms having strong winds, especially during tornadoes.[citation needed]

However, there have been many unconfirmed cases in which rainfalls of animals have occurred in fair weather and in the absence of strong winds or waterspouts. Given that waterspouts do not actually lift anything (the water droplets visible in the column are merely condensation) and even the most intense will only raise the surface of the water by less than a meter, it lacks plausibility to suggest that they are capable of lifting fish from below the surface of the water and high into the sky. Tornadoes do not really lift anything up into the column, but rather pick debris up and throw it outward on ballistic trajectories, where it lands in a destructive manner. Frogs, if they were to move in this way, would not be intact at the end of their journey, and fish, respiring aquatically, would likely asphyxiate long before their landing, which would be just as bad as it is for frogs. Despite the seeming scientific plausibility of the waterspout theory, upon more rigorous inspection it fails completely.[4]

More recently, a scientific-sounding explanation for the phenomenon has been developed that involves tornadic waterspouts.[5] However, waterspouts are very limited in their ability to lift objects into the air, managing only drops of water and possibly light surface debris (leaves, etc.), which are quickly jettisoned along ballistic trajectories. Under this hypothesis, waterspouts or tornados transport animals to relatively high altitudes, carrying them over large distances. It was mistakenly thought that the winds were capable of lifting and carrying the animals over a relatively wide area and allow them to fall in a concentrated fashion in a localized area.[6] More specifically, it has been erroneously claimed that some tornadoes can completely suck up a pond, letting the water and animals fall some distance away in the form of a "rain of animals".[7]

This hypothesis appears supported by the type of animals in these rains: small and light, usually aquatic,[8] and by the suggestion that the rain of animals is often preceded by a storm. However, the theory does not account for how all the animals involved in each individual incident would be from only one species, and not a group of similarly-sized animals from a single area. However, this waterspout hypothesis is not supported by the evidence. It has persisted in the popular imagination by a misunderstanding of what waterspouts are and of their lifting capability. Waterspouts are not capable of lifting significant weight nor of transporting it any significant distance. People mistakenly believe that the column of the waterspout is composed of water sucked up by the vortex, but this is not the case. The column of a waterspout consists of condensation from the surrounding air.[citation needed]

Doppler Image from Texas showing the collision of a thunderstorm with a group of bats in flight. The color red indicates the animals flying into the storm.

In the case of birds, storms may overcome a flock in flight, especially in times of migration. The image to the right shows an example wherein a group of bats is overtaken by a thunderstorm.[9] The image shows how the phenomenon could take place in some cases. In the image, the bats are in the red zone, which corresponds to winds moving away from the radar station, and enter into a mesocyclone associated with a tornado (in green). These events may occur easily with birds, which can get killed in flight, or stunned and then fall (unlike flightless creatures, which first have to be lifted into the air by an outside force). Sometimes this happens in large groups, for instance, the blackbirds falling from the sky in Beebe, Arkansas, United States on December 31, 2010.[10] It is common for birds to become disoriented (for example, because of bad weather or fireworks) and collide with objects such as trees or buildings, killing them or stunning them into falling to their death. The number of blackbirds killed in Beebe is not spectacular considering the size of their congregations, which can be in the millions.[11] The event in Beebe, however, captured the imagination and led to more reports in the media of birds falling from the sky across the globe, such as in Sweden and Italy,[12] though many scientists claim such mass deaths are common occurrences but usually go unnoticed.[13] In contrast, it is harder to find a plausible explanation for rains of terrestrial animals; yet the enigma persists despite scientific studies.

Sometimes, scientists have been incredulous of extraordinary claims of rains of fish. For example, in the case of a rain of fish in Singapore in 1861, French naturalist Francis de Laporte de Castelnau explained that the supposed rain took place during a migration of walking catfish, which are capable of dragging themselves over the land from one puddle to another.[14] Thus, he argued that the appearance of fish on the ground immediately after a rain was easily explained, as these animals usually move over soft ground or after a rain.

Occurrences[edit]

The following list is a selection of examples.

Fish[edit]

1555 engraving of rain of fish

Frogs and toads[edit]

Others[edit]

In literature and popular culture[edit]

Rains of animals (as well as rains of blood or blood-like material, and similar anomalies) play a central role in the epistemological writing of Charles Fort, especially in his first book, The Book of the Damned (1919). Fort collected stories of these events and used them both as evidence and as a metaphor in challenging the claims of scientific explanation.

Other examples:

In anime, comics, and manga[edit]

  • In the sixth part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure (first introduced in 1986), a character with the power to control weather causes a rain of frogs.

In film[edit]

  • Raining frogs occur in director Peter Weir's film, The Last Wave (1977), as one aspect of nature beyond the control or preconceptions of the Western scientific mindset.
  • In Luc Besson's film Le Dernier Combat (1983) raining fish are shown. The main character "The Man" (played by Pierre Jolivet) collects these fish and stores them as food.
  • In Stephen King's 1989 short story and its short film adaptation, "Rainy Season", giant black toads with needle-sharp teeth and the ability to chew through doors and walls, rain from the sky.
  • Raining frogs are shown in the Paul Thomas Anderson movie, Magnolia (1999). Frogs rain down and wreak havoc on drivers.
  • The character Cris Johnson in the film Next (2007) relates as fact that fish eggs were re-hydrated after being evaporated from the ocean near Denmark, resulting in a rain of fish.
  • In the film, Wonderful World (2009), Ben Singer (played by Matthew Broderick), experiences raining fish at the end of the film, while in Senegal. His close friend Ibu had told him about the phenomenon earlier in the film.
  • The Syfy channel film Sharknado (2013) followed this premise, with waterspouts dropping sharks across Los Angeles, California.

In games[edit]

  • In the role-playing game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006), the player can do an optional quest given by Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness, which involves playing a prank on a small, peaceful-yet-superstitious village. The player is told to perform certain actions that will fulfill a prophecy within the village that is believed to herald the end of the world, thus causing all of the villagers to panic. The final event foretold in the prophecy is flaming dogs raining from the sky, which, unlike the other events of the prophecy, is achieved by the Daedra Lord himself and his powers.

In literature[edit]

In television[edit]

"Raining cats and dogs"[edit]

A 19th-century English cartoon illustrating the phrase "it is raining cats and dogs" (and "pitchforks" too)

The English idiom "it is raining cats and dogs", used to describe an especially heavy rain, is of unknown etymology, and is not necessarily related to the "raining animals" phenomenon.[34] The phrase (with "polecats" instead of "cats") was used at least since the 17th century.[35][36] A number of improbable folk etymologies have been put forward to explain the phrase,[37] for example:

  • An "explanation" widely circulated by email claimed that in 16th-century Europe when peasant homes were commonly thatched, animals could crawl into the thatch to find shelter from the elements, and would fall out during heavy rain. However, there seems to be no evidence in support of either assertion.[38]
  • Drainage systems on buildings in 17th-century Europe were poor, and may have disgorged their contents during heavy showers, including the corpses of any animals that had accumulated in them. This occurrence is documented in Jonathan Swift's 1710 poem 'Description of a City Shower', in which he describes "Drowned puppies, stinking sprats, all drenched in mud,/Dead cats and turnip-tops come tumbling down the flood."
  • "Cats and dogs" may be a corruption of the Greek word Katadoupoi, referring to the waterfalls on the Nile,[34] possibly through the old French word catadupe ("waterfall").
  • The Greek phrase "kata doksa", which means "contrary to expectation" is often applied to heavy rain, but there is no evidence to support the theory that it was borrowed by English speakers.[34]

There may not be a logical explanation; the phrase may have been used just for its nonsensical humor value, like other equivalent English expressions ("it is raining pitchforks", "hammer handles", etc.).

Other languages have equally bizarre expressions for heavy rain:[39][40]

  • Afrikaans: ou vrouens met knopkieries reen ("old women with clubs")
  • Bengali: মুষলধারে বৃষ্টি পড়ছে musholdhare brishṭi poṛchhe ("in a stream of mallets")
  • Bosnian: padaju ćuskije ("crowbars")
  • Bosnian: lije ko iz kabla ("it's pouring like from a bucket")
  • Cantonese: "落狗屎" ("dog poo")
  • Chinese: "倾盆大雨" ("its pouring out of basins")
  • Catalan: Ploure a bots i barrals ("boats and barrels")
  • Croatian: padaju sjekire ("axes dropping")
  • Czech: padají trakaře ("wheelbarrows")
  • Czech: leje jako z konve ("like from a watering can")
  • Danish: det regner skomagerdrenge ("shoemakers' apprentices")
  • Dutch: het regent pijpenstelen ("pipe stems or stair rods")
  • Dutch (Flemish): het regent oude wijven ("old women")
  • Dutch (Flemish): het regent kattenjongen ("kittens")
  • Faroese : Tað regnar av grind ("Pilot whales")
  • Finnish: Sataa kuin Esterin perseestä ("It's raining like from Esteri's ass")
  • Finnish: Sataa kuin saavista kaatamalla ("It's raining like poured from a bucket")
  • French: il pleut comme vache qui pisse ("it is raining like a peeing cow")
  • French: il pleut à seaux ("it's raining like from buckets")
  • French: il pleut des hallebardes ("it is raining halberds"), clous ("nails"), or cordes ("ropes")
  • German: Es regnet junge Hunde ("young dogs") or Es schüttet wie aus Eimern ("like poured from buckets")
  • Greek: βρέχει καρεκλοπόδαρα ("chair legs")
  • Hindi: मुसलधार बारिश (musaldhār bārish) ("a stream of mallets")
  • Hungarian: mintha dézsából öntenék ("like poured from a vat")
  • Icelandic: Það rignir eins og hellt sé úr fötu ("like poured from a bucket")
  • Kannada:ಮುಸಲಧಾರೆ, ಕುಂಭದ್ರೋಣ ಮಳೆ ("a stream of mallets")
  • Italian: piove a catinelle ("poured from a basin")
  • Latvian: līst kā no spaiņiem ("it's raining like from buckets")
  • Marathi: मुसळधार पाउस("a stream of mallets")
  • Nepali: मुसलधारे झरी ("a stream of mallets")
  • Norwegian: det regner trollkjerringer ("she-trolls")
  • Polish: leje jak z cebra ("like from a bucket")
  • Portuguese: chovem or está chovendo/a chover canivetes ("penknives")
  • Portuguese: chove a potes/baldes ("it is raining by the pot/bucket load")
  • Portuguese: chove a cântaros/canecos ("it is raining by the jug load")
  • Portuguese (Brazil): chovem cobras e lagartos ("snakes and lizards")
  • Portuguese (Brazil): está caindo um pau-d'água ("a stick of water is falling")
  • Romanian: plouă cu broaşte ("raining frogs")
  • Romanian: plouă cu găleata ("from a bucket")
  • Russian: льет как из ведра ("from a bucket")
  • Spanish: están lloviendo chuzos de punta ("shortpikes/icicles point first" - not only is it raining a lot, but it's so cold and windy that being hit by the drops hurts)
  • Spanish: está lloviendo a cántaros ("by the clay pot-full")
  • Spanish: llueven sapos y culebras ("toads and snakes")
  • Spanish (Argentina): caen soretes de punta ("pieces of dung head-first")
  • Spanish (Venezuela): está cayendo un palo de agua ("a stick of water is falling")
  • Spanish (Colombia): estan lloviendo maridos ("it's raining husbands")
  • Serbian: padaju sekire ("axes")
  • Swedish: Det regnar smådjävlar ("It is raining little devils")
  • Swedish: Det regnar småspik ("It is raining small nails")
  • Swedish: regnet står som spön i backen ("the rain stands like poles out of the ground")
  • Tamil: பேய் மழை pei malai ("Ghost rain")
  • Turkish: bardaktan boşanırcasına ("like poured from a cup")
  • Urdu: musladhār bārish ("a stream of mallets")
  • Welsh: mae hi'n bwrw hen wragedd a ffyn ("old ladies and sticks")

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ How can it rain fish?
  2. ^ "Hundreds of fish fall out of the sky over remote Australian town of Lajamanu". DailyMail Online. 2 March 2010. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  3. ^ "Les pluies de crapauds". France-pittoresque.com (in French). 
  4. ^ Dunning, Brian. "It's Raining Frogs and Fish". Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "Can it rain frogs, fish or other objects". Library of Congress. August 26, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Raining casts and dogs". Supernatural World.  The Supernatural World uses this theory to explain a rain of fishes in Norfolk on August 8, 2000.
  7. ^ Rivas, Orsy Campos (November 7, 2004). "Lo que la lluvia regala a Yoro (discusses a rain of fishes that occurs annually in Honduras)". Hablemos. 
  8. ^ Angwin, Richard (July 15, 2003). "Wiltshire weather". BBC. 
  9. ^ "Bat-eating Supercell". National Weather Service. March 19, 2006. 
  10. ^ "More than 1,000 blackbirds fall out of Arkansas sky". BBC News. 2 January 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2011. 
  11. ^ "Why Are Birds Falling From the Sky?". National Geographic. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 6 January 2011. 
  12. ^ "Now It's Dead Doves Falling From Sky in Italy". "AOL". 7 January 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  13. ^ "FACT CHECK: Mass bird, fish deaths occur regularly". "Associated Press". 7 January 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  14. ^ Comptes Rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences 52. 1861. pp. 880–81. 
  15. ^ McAtee, Waldo L. (May 1917). "Showers of Organic Matter". Monthly Weather Review 45 (5): 223. doi:10.1175/1520-0493(1917)45<217:soom>2.0.co;2. Retrieved 2009-01-26. 
  16. ^ "Rained Fish", AP report in the Lowell (Mass.) Sun, May 16, 1900, p4
  17. ^ "Canada Day weather through the years", reported in The Weather Network : [1], June 27, 2012
  18. ^ Greg Forbes. Spooky Weather. The Weather Channel. Posted: October 27, 2005
  19. ^ Fish Rain in Kerala, India
  20. ^ "Fish Rain", reported in the India : [2], Oct 24, 2009
  21. ^ "It's raining fish in Northern Territory", reported in news.com.au : [3], February 28, 2010
  22. ^ Lani Nami Buan (January 15, 2012). "It's raining fish! It's normal". GMA News. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 
  23. ^ Jereco O. Paloma (January 15, 2012). "Agusan’s 'rain of fish' natural although unusual". SunStar Davao. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 
  24. ^ "Fish Rain", reported in the India : [4], Sep 12, 2013
  25. ^ Demetriou, Danielle (2009-06-10). "Sky 'rains tadpoles' over Japan". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  26. ^ "Szemtanúk szerint békaeső hullott a településre". szoljon.hu. 2010-06-21. Retrieved 2010-06-21. 
  27. ^ Fort, Charles (1919). "Ch. 4". The Book of the Damned. sacred-texts.com. p. 48. 
  28. ^ "It's Raining Spiders!". Epoch Times. 6 April 2007. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  29. ^ "Worms Fall from the Sky in Jennings". WAFB Channel 9. 7 July 2007. Retrieved 12 December 2008. 
  30. ^ "Designer registra 'chuva de aranhas' em cidade do interior do Paraná". Globo.com. 8 February 2013. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  31. ^ Pratchett, Terry (1997). The Discworld Companion. Books Britain. p. 319. ISBN 0-575-60030-6. 
  32. ^ Pratchett, Terry (1998). Jingo. London: Corgi. pp. 252–3. ISBN 0-552-14598-X. 
  33. ^ Pratchett, Terry (1998). Jingo. London: Corgi. p. 241. ISBN 0-552-14598-X. 
  34. ^ a b c Raining Cats and Dogs, Anatoly Liberman
  35. ^ Richard Brome (1652), The City Witt: "It shall rain dogs and polecats."
  36. ^ Robert Laurence, Raining Cats And Dogs. Accessed on 2009-07-28.
  37. ^ "Life in the 1500s". Snopes.com. 2007. 
  38. ^ Raining cats and dogs at The Phrase Finder site. Accessed on 2009-07-28.
  39. ^ WordReference.com Language Forums, accessed on 2009-07-28.
  40. ^ It's raining cats and dogs at Omniglot.com. Accessed through Google's cache on 2009-07-28.

External references[edit]