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Raining animals and other strange weather events you don’t see every day!

by Alicia Delay

The weather is always a challenge to predict. Some meteorological phenomena, however, are so rare that even meteorologists are surprised by them. Here’s a roundup of strange weather events you don’t see every day!

Raining fish

We’ve all said it’s “raining cats and dogs” at one point or another — but raining fish? That’s not something you see every day! However, in 2021, in Texarkana, Texas, fish actually fell from the sky and landed in people’s yards and on sidewalks.

This strange phenomenon known as “animal rain” occurs when small aquatic creatures, such as small fish or frogs, get sucked up into waterspouts and come back down in the form of rain.

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Fire tornadoes

Fire tornadoes are just what they sound like: a tornado made of fire, when wildfires are driven by incredibly strong winds. In 2021, in northern California, the Tennant wildfire created this terrifying natural phenomenon.

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Lightning sprites

Lightning sprites occur somewhat frequently but it’s rare to see them because they’re so ephemeral. These electrical discharges occur high up in the atmosphere above the thunderstorm clouds. This can make them harder to spot as they’re often obscured by clouds.

Twin tornadoes

Tornadoes occur from time to time, often with devastating effects. But twin tornadoes? In 2014, in Pilger, Nebraska, twin tornadoes touched down and destroyed much of the small Midwestern town, killing two people.

Twin tornadoes are two tornadoes that are produced by the same supercell storm cloud, unlike multiple tornadoes occurring from separate supercells.


According to the U.S. National Ocean Service, a “waterspout is a whirling column of air and water mist.” Unlike its name suggests, a waterspout does not pull water upward from an ocean or lake, but rather draws moisture downward from a cumulus cloud into a body of water. These relatively rare storm events can be dangerous to swimmers, boaters, and nearby aircraft.

Kelvin–Helmholtz waves

As a child, you likely watched clouds drift across the sky and tried to pick out faces and other objects in their pillowy formations. In your sky-gazing, you may have spotted clouds that looked like waves. If so, you were looking at Kelvin–Helmholtz wave clouds, a rare phenomenon caused when there is sufficient moisture in the sky and two distinct layers of air moving at different speeds.

Fallstreak holes

Fallstreak holes (or hole-punch clouds) are circular clearings spotted in a layer of altocumulus clouds, which are made up of “small water droplets that are below freezing.” These curious cloud holes are caused by jets. When the aircraft pass through the cloud layer, they cause heavier ice crystals to form. These then drop to the ground, leaving a gaping hole in the cloud layer.

Raining frogs

If it can rain fish, why not frogs?! Apparently, in 2005, tiny frogs did indeed rain down on the town of Odzaci, in northwestern Serbia. According to one news report, the small amphibians were not local to the area. One climatologist suggested that the frogs could have been sucked up by a tornado and then dropped back down.

Lenticular clouds

Have you ever spied a UFO, only to realize that it was a cloud? You likely spotted a lenticular cloud. Shaped like a lens, these clouds “typically form where stable moist air flows over a mountain or a range of mountains.”

Although they look calm in their motionless state, lenticular clouds are actually indicative of turbulence for any planes in the sky.

Dust devils

Similar to a tornado, but typically smaller, dust devils are “dust-filled vortices” that are created by intense heat on the surface of the ground. While most dust devil events are short-lived and occur in dry, desert areas, some can extend several thousand feet high, last for an hour or longer, and reach speeds of 100 km/hour (60 m.p.h.) or more.

Mammatus clouds

Mammatus clouds are distinctive and stunning, taking the form of a “series of bulges or pouches emerging from the base of a cloud.” They’re formed when turbulence occurs within cumulonimbus clouds, causing protrusions on their underside.

Because this type of cloud typically forms with cumulonimbus clouds, they’re often accompanied by thunderstorms, hail, heavy rain, and lightning.

Circumhorizontal arcs

As the name suggests, rainbows are in the shape of a bow. But sometimes, they are more parallel to the horizon. This unique phenomenon occurs when the sun is high in the sky (more than 58°), meaning this rare event cannot occur in extremely northern countries, such as much of Canada, Russia, and the Scandinavian countries, because the sun is simply too low.

Catatumbo lightning

Some places in the world are more prone to lightning than others. Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela is one such place that gets more than its fair share of lightning — in fact, this lake gets approximately 250 lightning strikes per square kilometre per night, and sees roughly 160 storm nights per year!

It is believed that the area provides the perfect conditions for lightning: the Andes surrounding the lake provide the necessary wind to lift the warm air up into the mountains, while the lake delivers plenty of humidity to create cumulonimbus clouds.

Volcanic lightning

Volcanic lightning is a rare sight to behold. On January 15, 2022, a volcano on Tonga, an island nation in the South Pacific, erupted so violently that it caused an incredible amount of lightning: 200,000 strikes per hour, at one point.

In 2010, Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, also causing intense lightning.


Although the sun is the main source of light for coloured arcs, other light objects can create them, too, including sprinklers and the moon. Lunar rainbows (aka moonbows) are formed just like any other rainbow — the only difference is that the moon is the light source, rather than the sun. For this to occur, the moon needs to be almost full so that it can provide sufficient light.


As a child, you were likely introduced to the concept of a mirage in cartoons. The optical illusions are, however, real occurrences. Mirages are caused by extremely hot ground combined with cooler air. The ground warms up the layer of air directly above the ground, causing the light that moves through it to bend. Our mind interprets this bent light as objects on the ground, creating an illusion of an oasis in the desert, for instance.

Ball lightning

Ball lightning is a rare and mysterious natural phenomenon — so rare, in fact, that many scientists are skeptical as to whether it really exists. Reportedly observed over the centuries, ball lightning is said to consist of orbs roughly the size of a grapefruit that move slowly and briefly across the ground or smash through windows during thunderstorms. Scientists continue to study the phenomenon to determine whether it’s actually real or not.

Northern lights

The northern lights (or aurora borealis) are a well-known natural phenomenon that those who live in the Northern Hemisphere have the good fortune to observe, typically in the wintertime. These impressive and vibrant light displays occur when “charged particles (electrons and protons) collide with gases in Earth’s upper atmosphere.” This causes billions of small flashes, creating a vibrant show of light that appears to dance across the night sky.

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It may surprise you to learn that thunderstorms, most common in the summertime, can occur in the winter, too. However, a particular set of conditions is required: a “mass of cold on top of warm air, plus moist air closer to the ground.”

Thundersnow storms typically bring heavy snow, muffled thunder, and lightning. This rare phenomenon tends to occur during lake-effect snowstorms.

Winter wildfires

Wildfires typically occur during the hottest, driest months of the year. However, they can happen in winter, especially as climate change disrupts normal weather patterns. In December 2021, in Colorado, “hurricane-force winds,” coupled with the area’s extremely dry conditions, drove a fire, suspected to have been caused by downed power lines, to burn through Boulder County, swiftly destroying over 500 homes.



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