Most people have experienced some type of unusual weather event—hot temperatures in the middle of winter, freak summer storms, and other unusual events. But have you ever seen glowing clouds, mysterious balls of light, fish raining from the sky, or snowballs that roll by themselves? It might seem unbelievable, but while the following five weather events are incredibly rare, they are all very real.
1. Ball Lightning
For decades, ball lightning belonged to the realm of myth. However, surveys show that as many as one in 30 people has seen strange, glowing balls that hover, dance along the ground or even float through walls. In 1963, ball lightning became more than a myth when scientists who were flying from New York to Washington D.C. witnessed a bright orb that drifted down the aisle of their plane and vanished through the tail section. Scientists still aren’t certain what causes ball lightning, but it appears most often during thunderstorms. The fireballs range from golf-ball sized, to several yards in diameter. The most popular scientific theories say that ball lightning is caused by burning silicates released from the soil after a lightning strike.
2. Snow Rollers
If you’ve ever seen a snow-covered field that seemed to be growing snowmen all by itself, then you’ve seen a rare winter weather phenomenon. Snow rollers – often called “snow bales” or “wind snowballs” – form when wet snow falls on a previous layer of crusty, frozen snow. If high winds pick up as the wet snow falls, the wind will push the new snow until it forms snowballs. Most snow rollers stay under a foot in diameter, but if this phenomenon occurs on a slope, you may find some truly large snow rollers at the bottom of the hill.
3. Mother of Pearl Clouds
Mother of pearl clouds – or nacreous clouds – are an incredibly rare and beautiful phenomenon. Unlike most other types of clouds, nacreous clouds form high in the stratosphere and they have an unusual shimmering iridescence. For the most part, these clouds form over the North and South Poles, but they’re also occasionally sighted in places like Alaska, Iceland, and other high-latitude regions. As beautiful as these rainbow-colored clouds are, they don’t come with a silver lining. Nacreous clouds are actually the destructive result of chemical reactions caused by chlorofluorocarbons. The reaction releases chlorine gas, which is very damaging to the ozone layer.
4. Fire Rainbows
Fire rainbows aren’t technically rainbows and they’re unrelated to fire, but they’re beautiful nonetheless. These rainbows (known as circumhorizontal arcs) form when the sun shines through thin cirrus clouds that are filled with ice crystals. It doesn’t take just any ice crystals to form these rainbows, either. The crystals must have a hexagonal shape so that they refract light into a myriad of colors. To see a fire rainbow, look between the sun and the horizon line. Fire rainbows are always parallel to the horizon, and they only form when the sun is high in the sky. The best time to glimpse a fire rainbow is around midday.
5. Fish Rains
Fish rains (and other non-aqueous rains) are so rare that most people assume these events are nothing more than folklore. However, fish rains—and frog, lizard and bird rains—do happen occasionally. One of the most recent fish rains happened in 2010 over the small village of Lajamanu in Australia. Residents were stunned as thousands of spangled perch pounded their community. In 1957, frogs, fish, and crayfish rained down near Thomasville, Alabama, and residents in Lynn Haven, Florida experienced a rain of crabs in 2013. Scientists believe that these weird rains are caused by tornados and waterspouts that suck up small animals, debris and water. Most of these rains happen near to where the tornado occurred, but sometimes the animals or objects can travel for hundreds of miles before falling to the ground.
Strange weather events can be beautiful, dangerous or a mixture of the two, but one thing is always certain: Wherever you live in the world, there is a chance that you’ll be able to experience some of these unusual phenomena yourself. Keep your eyes peeled!