Science Questions with Surprising Answers
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Dr. Christopher S. Baird

Can it rain fish?

Category: Earth Science      Published: April 30, 2013

By: Christopher S. Baird, author of The Top 50 Science Questions with Surprising Answers and Associate Professor of Physics at West Texas A&M University

raining fish
Simulated image of fish raining down from the sky. Public Domain Image, source: Christopher S. Baird.

Yes. Although rare, there are numerous instances of fish falling down from the skies. Of course, the fish do not really "rain" in the sense of condensing out of water vapor. The fish that fall from the sky are just fish that used to be in the sea. So what puts the fish up in the sky in the first place? Although few detailed scientific observations have been performed on this phenomenon, the common consensus is that tornadoes are the culprit. When tornadoes traverse over bodies of water, they become known as waterspouts. Waterspouts suck up lake or ocean water along with the fish or other creatures swimming in the water. The fish are sucked up the tornado's vortex and then blown around in the clouds until the windspeed decreases enough to let them fall back to the ground, perhaps miles away from where they started. According to Bill Evans' meteorology book titled It's Raining Fish and Spiders, creatures fall from the sky about forty times a year. All sorts of creatures have been reported raining down, including snakes, worms, and crabs, but fish and frogs are the most common. Even squid and alligators have been reported to fall from the sky. Often, the process of being swept high into the clouds encases these creatures in a layer of ice or hail that may still remain after they have plummeted back to earth. Raining creatures encased in blocks of ice can be very dangerous and have been known to smash through car windshields. If you see any wildlife falling from the sky, seek shelter indoors immediately.

Topics: fish, precipitation, rain, rain fish, tornado, water spout, weather