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The Most Bizarre Weather Phenomena in the World

The unofficial USPS creed has long been “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” It basically means the weather isn’t going to stop the mail. But that was just normal weather they were talking about. Even the best postal delivery person would probably call in sick for some of these bizarre weather phenomena.

10. Oakville Blobs

It was the summer of 1994 when the people of Oakville, Washington, a town of under 600 people, looked outside and discovered the rain was not the way it was supposed to be. The rain on that day was thick and gooey, like splatters of Jell-O falling from the sky.

The blobs were not big; they were the size of rice grains, but they did accumulate on the ground into a jelly-like coating. The same gloopy rain fell in and around the Oakville area several more times over the next couple of weeks. And then it was gone.

Locals began experiencing flu-like symptoms. A microbiologist investigated the slime and discovered it was full of bacteria, but the bacteria was not harmful. People who experienced it said it caused a flu that lasted in some cases for several months

Some speculate that the goo didn’t fall from the sky at all, but it appeared on the ground. However, residents interviewed for an episode of Unsolved Mysteries claimed it fell and one guy was even in his car at the time and had trouble cleaning it off the windshield.

To this day, the phenomenon has not been repeated or explained.

9. Ghost Apples

Most people will never encounter a ghost apple in their life, and for good reason. It takes a remarkably rare set of circumstances for the weather to produce one of these. Photos began spreading around the internet in 2019 and some people were quick to denounce them as hoaxes. The real story is much more interesting but less ghostly than the name implies.

A ghost apple looks like a perfectly formed apple on a tree, except it’s made of ice. You can see why people would be skeptical. But the truth seems to be the result of real apples meeting the polar vortex. If the conditions are right, freezing rain can coat an apple and ice up almost immediately, creating a perfect apple shell. But the real apple itself cannot survive those harsh conditions. The fruit rots away and falls out the bottom, leaving a perfect duplicate in ice behind. 

8. The Green Flash

Sailors have no end of weather phenomenon to talk about, but one of the most unusual ones that sailors have claimed to see is the green flash. Most of the rest of us will never experience this in our lifetime and, as a result, it sounds like it’s completely made up. But the flash is a real thing, and you don’t need to be at sea to notice it, though it does help.

There is a moment at sunrise or sunset when, under optimal conditions, the light of the rising or setting sun flashes a brilliant emerald green. The cause is not as mysterious as the light itself seems to be. At sunrise and set, the rays of the sun are coming towards us at an oblique angle. The atmospheric ability to scatter light rays is different at this angle than it is when the sun is right overhead. 

Our atmosphere filters out most of the color of the light of the sun, in particular those shades of blue, so only yellow-hued light is visible. But there is that brief moment when the sun is in the right position when the light refracting away from us may still sneak through in a brilliant flash of green. 

7. Ball Lightning

ball lightning

Ball lightning sounds like something that belongs in an X-Men comic and, in fairness, probably has shown up there before. But it’s also an extremely rare and hard to believe phenomenon that occurs in real life.

Just as the name suggests, this is lightning that appears in spherical form. It has a lifespan of just moments and there seems to be no way to reproduce it artificially or predict where it might show up. This has largely contributed to many people not believing in it and science having little research on the topic. 

The spheres, which crackle and tend to hover gently in place, are said to even pass through walls. They’re small. One was described as being the size of a grapefruit, and blinding white. The balls expand and then explode, often followed by a massive thunderclap.

How they form or why still remains a mystery.

6. Lightning Sprites

lightning sprites

Obviously a lot of extreme weather can also be terrifying. Few people will ever stare down a tornado and not fear for the damage it can cause. But if you want unadulterated nightmare fuel, then the most terrifying weather you’re likely to ever see is something called lightning sprites.

Also called red sprites, these are not actually as rare as many other things, but seeing them is. They usually occur above storms and are often blocked from our view down on the surface of the earth. But when you can see them, they can look like a horror movie end of the world situation as blood red lightning seems to be dripping from the clouds in a way that brings to mind an invasion of aliens or demons from another dimension. But hey, the truth is far less scary.

Lightning sprites are formed in the mesosphere at least 50 miles up and they can grow to 30 miles across. They seem to be triggered by normal lightning strikes and are thought to balance the charge of that positive bolt, dispensing it vertically. They also only exist for fractions of a second, which is why seeing or photographing them is so hard. 

5. Hail Glaciers

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Hail is one of the most unpleasant weather phenomena you can experience. Chunks of ice falling from the sky can cause property damage and physical harm. There have actually been a couple of people killed by hail over the years, rare though it may be. And that’s not all hail has up its sleeve. You can end up with hail glaciers, too.

Freak hailstorms can happen almost anywhere, including places where ice and snow are generally rare. If the hail remains on the ground and there’s a shift in the weather so that rain follows it, you can end up with hail flowing along rivers of rain. In 2004 in New Mexico, this ended up causing hail to be swept along and deposited in large cliff-like structures that were as much as 5-15 feet tall around local streams. 

4. St. Elmo’s Fire

Not just an underrated ’80s movie and song combo, St. Elmo’s fire is a natural, albeit rare, and very weird phenomenon. Named for Saint Erasmus, who sometimes gets called St. Elmo, the patron saint of sailors, this is an electrical phenomenon experienced during storms but is decidedly not lightning. 

Back in the day, sailors observed the occurrence around the masts of their ships. It appeared most often as a blue glow and it’s been observed for thousands of years. You can even see it on plane wings sometimes. Basically, anything with a point or sharp edge that is exposed during a storm. 

St. Elmo’s fire is not fire at all, nor is it lightning. It’s actually a discharge of plasma. Electricity built up during storms and can heat gas molecules to the point that they convert to plasma in small concentrations. These focus most readily around pointy things, like ship masts, but apparently have also been observed around the horns of animals, which has to be the coolest thing in the world to see firsthand. 

3. Catatumbo Lightning

As cool as lightning is, it’s hardly rare. If you want lightning to stand out in a crowd, it has to be dramatic in some way. That’s exactly what you get with Catatumbo lightning. It’s isolated to a single lake in Venezuela called Lake Maracaibo and the surrounding area. This area endures about 160 night’s worth of storms every year. And they bring lightning by the bucket load.

Lightning strikes have been recorded at a rate of 28 per minute around the lake. There can be up to 250 strikes per square kilometer every night. It’s been going on for hundreds of years and seems to be uniquely caused by the weather patterns of the area. The Andes mountains provide cold air that melds with the warm air as lake water evaporates, providing conditions for nearly endless storms and extravagant lightning displays.

2. Blood Rain

No one expects rain to be anything other than water falling from the sky. The science behind it is pretty straightforward and there’s no reason to ever be alarmed. Except for those rare occasions when the water isn’t what it’s supposed to be.

Rain that falls in shades of yellow and brown and even black have occurred in the past. But of all the colored rains people have experienced, none is ever quite as off putting as red rain. Why? Because they call it blood rain and that’s just creepy.

Rain that falls like blood has a long history in writing. Homer wrote about it as a punishment meted out by Zeus himself. But it occurs in real life and in modern times as well, minus the rage of an elder god. The truth is much less dramatic than the name and it’s caused almost exclusively by dust. Wind kicks up fine dust particles in places like the Sahara and it can travel great distances in the atmosphere. Depending on the kind of dust it picked up, it can end up raining down again in colors that are quite vibrant and startling, sometimes dark enough to stain clothing

1. Snow Donuts

If you can say there’s anything fun about winter it would have to be snow. The temperatures may not be appealing, but snow can lead to a lot of adventures from skiing to snowball fights and, apparently, donuts.

Every kid who has ever played in the snow has likely rolled a snowball themselves. You can’t start a snowman without one. But snow donuts don’t have the benefit of human interaction.

They form in open areas, like the Canadian prairies, and conditions need to be very specific to allow them to happen. The snow on the ground needs to have a thin, wet layer on top of powdery snow below. The wind needs to have enough force to start pushing that wet layer, but not so strong that it blows it to pieces. And, ideally, you need an incline so gravity can help it along. If all the pieces of the puzzle are there, the wet snow peels off the powder like the cheese off of a pizza crust and then wind and gravity roll it up into a donut shape.

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