Peculiar weather - just because it sounds odd doesn't mean it didn't happen!

I have always been passionate about the weather.  When I realized that to fulfill this passion I had to have a career in atmospheric science, I started acquiring all sorts of books, charts, movies, and other weather related things.  One of those books was a book from the early 1990’s called It’s Raining Frogs and Fishes by Jerry Dennis.  It was really interesting to me because it discussed all of the different seasons and some different phenomena that different parts of the world experience during the seasons.  As I continue to blog for The GLOBE Program, my mind keeps returning to this book because I remembered some really interesting facts that I thought would be fun to share with the GLOBE community.

The first topic I wanted to address was the title of the book, because it is a very interesting idea.  As it suggests, at different times during history, there have been times that frogs and fish have been seen in locations that couldn’t be explained.   Maybe your grandparents have told you a story about something similar that you couldn’t believe could be true.  It is important for you to use your knowledge to come to a conclusion before you accept it as true or false.

A cartoon of raining frogs

Cartoon of raining frogs, from

In 1921, a paper was published entitled “Rains of Fishes” that documented hundreds of years of accounts of fish falling from the skies.  The accounts documented in this paper range from the city streets of New York to rural Indiana.   The author of the paper proposed quite a few methods for the fish to fall from the sky, such as witnesses observing species of fish that actually can migrate over land or that the fish had been lifted from a nearby ocean, lake, or stream.  As with controversial topics, skeptics began to question the findings in this paper and wrote their own versions.  It wasn’t until 1947 when a biologist in Louisiana witnessed for himself a rain of fish and reported it in Science magazine.

In addition to these locations in the United States, there are reports of fish falling from the sky from India, Scotland, and Greece.   Even with multiple countries reporting such events, it still isn’t clear if these fish are actually falling from the sky after having been picked up by a severe weather event, or if there is another explanation for it.

But it’s not just fish that have been reported.  Frogs, hazelnuts, and grain have also been observed falling from the sky.  These reports come from the United States, Germany, Ireland, India, and China.  Like the fish rain, these reports are harder to explain, especially when associated with clear skies.  In 1989, a frog swarm was seen prior to the Loma Prieta earthquake in California.  While some wondered where these frogs came from, it is thought that their intuition had them move before the earthquake hit.  This was also seen in 2008 prior to the Sichuan earthquake in China.

2008 frog swarm in China

2008 frog swarm in China, from

As with all phenomena that aren’t intuitive, it is interesting to take a look at all of the factors to find an explanation that can be based on facts.   In the case of fish, was there a flash flood that may have brought the fish onto land and left them there when the waters receded?  Was there a tornado or water spout that may have deposited the fish on land?  Or was it a species that is known to migrate over land occasionally?

This idea is the vision of The GLOBE Program – promoting and supporting teachers, students, and scientists to promote inquiry-based study and research.  Have you used inquiry to answer a question that didn’t make sense?  We’d love to hear about it! Let us know through a comment or email!

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Nice blog post You rock!