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Tsunami Clouds With a Chance of Fish Rain: 6 Bizarre Weather Phenomena

Updated on February 2, 2012

We all know water is a little weird. It’s heavier when chilled, lighter when frozen and absorbs heat without much temperature change. It’s the foundation of life: We need it for drinking, for regulating body temperature and for filling the jacuzzi at a bed and breakfast.

But when it comes to weather, water gets even weirder.

Tsunami Clouds

Mysterious waves of clouds rolled across the Birmingham, Alabama sky last December, sparking a flurry of photos and YouTube videos. But while these strange formations look otherworldly, they’re actually a phenomenon known as the Kelvin–Helmholtz instability. Whether seen in the sky or in the ocean, this type of turbulence always forms when a fast-moving layer of fluid slides on top of a slower, thicker layer, dragging its surface. When it comes to clouds, the fast-moving air high in the sky can drag the tops of slow-moving, thick clouds underneath, producing gnarly waves.

Underwater Ice Tornado

Known as brinicles (brine icicles), these slo-mo tornadoes are actually columns of ice that form under very calm ocean conditions where extremely cold, saline water is introduced to ocean water. The sinking brine is so chilly that it causes the seawater to freeze around it. Brinicles grow bigger over time as they accumulate ice, and when they hit the seabed they form a deadly web of ice that kills everything in its path.

Scientists have known about this form of extreme underwater “weather” since the 1960s, but this is the first time one has been caught on camera. This footage was taken in minus 2 degree Celcius water at Little Razorback Island, near Antarctica's Ross Archipelago.


These powerful waterspouts were filmed from a helicopter near the coastal suburb of Terrigal, on Australia’s New South Wales coast. Witnesses claimed the waterspouts reached heights of 600 metres but shrunk as they neared land.

Contrary to popular belief, waterspouts do not suck up water to great heights. The water you see is actually freshwater condensation that occurs during formation. All waterspouts, whether they form over land or over water, require high levels of humidity and a relatively warm water temperature compared to the overlying air. They’re smaller and weaker than true tornadoes but still have the power to overturn boats, damage buildings and endanger people.

Red Rain

From July 25 to September 23, 2001, red-coloured rain fell on the southern Indian state of Kerala. The sporadic rain bursts stained clothing pink, burned leaves on trees and even fell as thick sheets of crimson in some regions.

The first rains appeared just after a loud boom shook the region, so it was initially thought that the red rains were alien in origin, containing biological particles from an exploded meteor. Some scientists say the particles contained no DNA, yet had the ability to split and replicate. Others have tried to debunk the theory, saying the particles were fungal spores or even blood from exploded bats. But to date, no one has found a definitive answer.

Fish Rain

Once a year, from May until July, hundreds of small silverfish rain down on the small town of Yoro in northwestern Honduras. The phenomenon, known as LLuvia de Peces (“Rain of Fish”), has been occurring for over a century.

According to witnesses, it begins with lightning, thunder and heavy rains that last for hours. Once the storm has passed, hundreds of living fish are found flopping on the ground. The weird part of this story is that the source of the fish is unknown. The Atlantic Ocean is 200 km away and it’s highly likely that a waterspout collects the fish during the same time every year and deposits them directly on the town of Yoro. The species of fish have been identified, but no record of them has been found in surrounding bodies of water. Locals think the phenomenon occurs because of Father José Manuel Subirana, who, in the 19th century, prayed for 3 days and 3 nights asking God to provide food for the poor people of Yoro. The Rain of Fish has occurred ever since.

Red Sprites

Sprites are large-scale electrical charges that appear above thunderstorm clouds. These extremely bright red-orange flashes in the sky have the ability to leap all the way from the tops of thunderheads to outer space, yet appear for only milliseconds. Very little is known about what causes them, but scientists think it might have something to do with the electrical superheating and dissociation of water molecules into gas.

Sprites are sometimes preceded by a halo, as seen in the above photo. It lasts for only a millisecond.


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