Rain of animals

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A rain of fish was recorded in Singapore in 1861, when during three days of torrential rain numerous fish were found in puddles
Raining snakes, 1680.

A rain of animals is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which flightless animals fall from the sky. Such occurrences have been reported in many countries throughout history.[1] One hypothesis is that tornadic waterspouts sometimes pick up creatures such as fish or frogs, and carry them for up to several miles.[1][2] However, this aspect of the phenomenon has never been witnessed by scientists.[3]

History[edit]

Rain of flightless animals and things has been reported throughout history.[1] In the first century AD, Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder documented storms of frogs and fish.[4] In 1794, French soldiers saw toads fall from the sky during heavy rain at Lalain, near the French city of Lille.[5] Rural inhabitants in Yoro, Honduras claim 'fish rain' happens there every summer, a phenomenon they call Lluvia de Peces.[6]

Explanations[edit]

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

French physicist André-Marie Ampère (1775–1836) was among the first scientists to take seriously accounts of raining animals. Addressing the Society of Natural Science, Ampère suggested that at times frogs and toads roam the countryside in large numbers, and that violent winds could pick them up and carry them great distances.[3]

After a reported rain of fish in Singapore in 1861, French naturalist Francis de Laporte de Castelnau speculated that a migration of walking catfish had taken place, dragging themselves over land from one puddle to another, following the rain.[7]

The likeliest explanation for many of the supposed cases is that there is no falling happening at all and the animals are driven along by winds or a deluge of some sort.[8] This explanation also accounts for the prevalence of reports that only a single species or type of animal is ever reported raining from the sky.

A current scientific hypothesis involves tornadic waterspouts: a tornado that forms over the water.[1][9][10][11] Under this hypothesis, a tornadic waterspout transports animals to relatively high altitudes, carrying them over large distances. This hypothesis appears supported by the type of animals in these rains: small and light, usually aquatic,[12] 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.[13] Further, the theory also does not account for a genuine tornadic waterspout not actually sucking objects up and carrying them rather than flinging objects out to the sides.[14]

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 Doppler image to the right shows an example wherein a group of bats is overtaken by a thunderstorm.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17] 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,[18] though many scientists claim such mass deaths are common occurrences but usually go unnoticed.[19] In contrast, it is harder to find a plausible explanation for rains of terrestrial animals.

Some cases are thought to be caused by birds dropping fish. With regard to a documented rain of fish that occurred on December 29, 2021 in Texarkana, Texas, independent researchers Sharon A. Hill and Paul Cropper proposed that the fish had been dropped or possibly regurgitated by passing birds.[20] The theory found some favor with airport workers who had cleaned up the fish; they noted that there were birds in the area around the same time, and the fish "were kind of chewed up." In June 2022 around the San Francisco coast, a boom of anchovies is likely to be the cause of fair weather falling of fish from birds' mouths, such as pelicans.[21]

Examples in popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Can it rain frogs, fish or other objects". Library of Congress. August 26, 2010.
  2. ^ How can it rain fish? BBC News 20 August 2004.
  3. ^ a b When It Rains Animals: The Science of True Weather Weirdness. Alasdair Wilkins. March 21, 2012.
  4. ^ "How can it rain fish?". August 20, 2004 – via news.bbc.co.uk.
  5. ^ Rivas, Orsy Campos (November 7, 2004). "Lo que la lluvia regala a Yoro (discusses a rain of fishes that occurs annually in Honduras)". Hablemos.
  6. ^ Comptes Rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l'Académie des sciences. Vol. 52. 1861. pp. 880–881.
  7. ^ Nobel, Justin (2014-03-18). "When Animals Fall from the Sky". Modern Farmer. Retrieved 2019-07-10.
  8. ^ Strange Rain: Why Fish, Frogs and Golf Balls Fall From the Skies. Sarah Zielinski, Smithsonian Magazine. 8 September 2015.
  9. ^ What is animal rain phenomenon and how is it explained?. World Weather Online. 19 August 2014.
  10. ^ When It Rains Animals: The Science of True Weather Weirdness. Alasdair Wilkins, iO9. 21 March 2012.
  11. ^ Angwin, Richard (July 15, 2003). "Wiltshire weather". BBC.
  12. ^ When Animals Rain From The Sky. Scribol.
  13. ^ Dunning, Brian (September 8, 2009). "It's Raining Frogs and Fish". Skeptoid.
  14. ^ "Bat-eating Supercell". National Weather Service. March 19, 2006.
  15. ^ "More than 1,000 blackbirds fall out of Arkansas sky". BBC News. 2 January 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  16. ^ "Why Are Birds Falling From the Sky?". National Geographic. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
  17. ^ "Now It's Dead Doves Falling From Sky in Italy". "AOL". 7 January 2011. Archived from the original on 9 January 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
  18. ^ "Fact Check: Mass bird, fish deaths occur regularly". "Associated Press". 7 January 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
  19. ^ "Researchers figured out why fish fell from the sky in Texarkana, and it's pretty gross". Dallas News. 2022-06-22. Retrieved 2022-06-22.
  20. ^ Moore, Sam (2022-06-28). "Fish are reportedly raining from the sky across San Francisco". SFGATE. Retrieved 2022-06-30.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bajkov, A.D. Do fish fall from the sky? Science, v. 109, April 22, 1949: 402.
  • Bourchier, Daniel. “It’s raining fish…no really.” Sunday Territorian, Australia, February 28, 2010.
  • Branley, Franklyn M. It's raining cats and dogs: all kinds of weather and why we have it. Illustrated by True Kelley. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1987. 112 p. (Juvenile)
  • Cerveny, Randall S. Freaks of the storm: from flying cows to stealing thunder, the world's strangest true weather stories. New York, Thunder's Mouth Press, c2006. 371 p.
  • Chandler, Barb. Froggy weather. Weather-wise, v. 57, Jan./Feb. 2004: 42.
  • Christian, Spencer and Antonia Felix. Can it really rain frogs?: the world's strangest weather events. New York, Wiley, 1997. 121 p. (Juvenile).
  • Corliss, William. Tornados, dark days, anomalous precipitation, and related weather phenomena: a catalog of geophysical anomalies. Glen Arm, MD: Sourcebook Project, c1983. 196 p.
  • Dennis, Jerry. It's raining frogs and fishes: four seasons of natural phenomena and oddities of the sky. New York, HarperCollins, c1992. 323 p.
  • Englebert, Phillis. The complete weather resource. Detroit, UXL, c1997–2000. 4 v.
  • “Frogs fall from the sky.” Herald Sun, Melbourne, Australia, June 8, 2005. p. 2.
  • Gray, J. E. The shower of fishes. Zoologist; a monthly journal of natural history, v. 17, 1859: 6540–6541
  • Gudger, E. W. Do fish fall from the sky with rain? Scientific Monthly, v. 29, December 1929: 523–527.
  • McAtee, Waldo L. Showers of organic matter. Monthly Weather Review, v. 45, May 1917: 217–224.
  • Posey, Carl A. The living earth book of wind and weather. Pleasantville, NY, Reader's Digest Association, c1994. 224 p.
  • Waterspouts. In McGraw-Hill concise encyclopedia of science and technology. 5th edition. New York, McGraw-Hill, c2005. pp. 2369–2370.

External links[edit]