Audience versions of this page: FamilyIt’s raining cats and dogs? More like bats and polliwogs.“Animal rain” is a real weather phenomenon that happens when small animals get swept up in waterspouts or updrafts, and then fall to Earth with raindrops. Reported rains of bats, fish, snakes, birds, frogs, and jellies stretch back for centuries.The phenomena most associated with animal rain are waterspouts, although many meteorologists are skeptical that waterspouts can actually cause animal rain. Waterspouts form as violent storm clouds swirl above a large body of water. These clouds form a tornado-like whirlwind (called a vortex) that dips into the ocean, lake, or pond. Waterspouts can spin up to 160 kilometers per hour (100 miles per hour), and may pull up small objects in their funnel—water, pebbles, and small aquatic animals. It is important to remember that a waterspout is not a swirling column of water—the water in a waterspout is the result of condensation, not liquid "sucked up" from a body of water.Strong winds (called updrafts) may also pull animals into their swirling vortices. Updrafts can sweep up much larger animals than waterspouts—traveling birds and bats, as well as frogs, snakes, and insects.As waterspouts and updrafts move over land, they lose their swirling energy. The storm clouds that formed the waterspouts are forced to dump their heavy loads. The heaviest objects are dumped first, and the lightest objects (usually simple raindrops) are dumped last. This explains why reports of animal rain usually describe only one type of animal raining down. A cloud will dump all objects of a similar weight at the same time—fish (heavy), followed by insects (lighter), followed by rain (lightest), for example.Precipitation—even animal rain—is part of the natural movement of water in our atmosphere. Clouds always move from high-pressure systems to low-pressure systems. High-pressure areas are often near the surface of the Earth (although entire regions, such as the poles, are high-pressure zones). Low-pressure areas are often high in the atmosphere (although the region around the Equator is a low-pressure zone). Storms, precipitation, and even animal rain “lighten” the cloud’s load and allow it to continue its movement in the atmosphere.
Here are a few examples of animal rain reported around the world. Keep in mind—not all of these are proven!
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry atmosphere Noun
layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.
Encyclopedic Entry: atmosphere cloud Noun
visible mass of tiny water droplets or ice crystals in Earth's atmosphere.
Encyclopedic Entry: cloud condensation Noun
process by which water vapor becomes liquid.
Encyclopedic Entry: condensation ecosystem Noun
community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.
Encyclopedic Entry: ecosystem energy Noun
capacity to do work.
funnel cloud Noun
tube-shaped cloud that, if it touches Earth, becomes a tornado or waterspout.
high-pressure system Noun
weather pattern characterized by high air pressure, usually as a result of cooling. High-pressure systems are usually associated with clear weather.
low-pressure system Noun
weather pattern characterized by low air pressure, usually as a result of warming. Low-pressure systems are often associated with storms.
person who studies patterns and changes in Earth's atmosphere.
phenomena Plural Noun
(singular: phenomenon) any observable occurrence or feature.
frog or toad in its early state of development. Also called a tadpole.
all forms in which water falls to Earth from the atmosphere.
Encyclopedic Entry: precipitation storm Noun
severe weather indicating a disturbed state of the atmosphere resulting from uplifted air.
a violently rotating column of air that forms at the bottom of a cloud and touches the ground.
rising movement of gas.
column of rotating fluid, such as air (wind) or water.
column of rotating cloud-filled wind that descends to an ocean or lake.
Encyclopedic Entry: waterspout weather Noun
state of the atmosphere, including temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, humidity, precipitation, and cloudiness.
Encyclopedic Entry: weather