Raining worms, blood rain and lightning balls: the weather extremes heading for the UK

These phenomena may seem bizarre, but they are becoming the norm...

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Storm and lighting over house. Thunderstorm at night near village.

In the last six hours, you have probably talked about whether it will rain this week, and possibly just how cold the chilly snap forecast to be making its way to the UK from Iceland will be.

As a nation we are said to be obsessed with the weather .

And it is not just the weather this week that both fascinate and cause us fear, but the super storms and freak events that wreak havoc - such as Hurricane Irma which recently devastated parts of the Caribbean, or the raining fish found earlier this year in California.

See also: Storm chaser risks life to photograph extreme weather

See also: Bizarre 'worm balls' found in Texas - and no one knows why

We take a look at some of the extreme weathers that have hit around the world, and could be coming to the UK in future.

Great balls of lightning

Credits: Alamy Balls of lightning have been described as suddenly electrifying the sky

On 21 October 1638, a severe storm struck as worshippers gathered at the Church of St Pancras in Dartmoor. Suddenly a ball of fire, measuring eight feet (2.4 metres) across, struck and entered the church, smashing pews and windows, filling the building with a thick, sulphurous smell. Four people were killed and 60 injured - with many blaming a visit from the devil.

What they had witnessed was ball lightning, an electrical phenomenon which occurs during a storm and lasts longer than the usual flash of lightning, travelling at a slower speed but proving equally deadly. They are often seen to explode, scattering smaller balls in all directions.

An 1809 account records three 'balls of fire' hitting the ship HMS Warren Hastings during a storm.

And on a flight from Washington to New York on 19 March 1963. Roger Clifton Jennison, Professor of Electronics at the University of Kent, was on the plane when it encountered an electrical storm. He observed a glowing sphere 'pass down the aisle of the aircraft.'

Lahars

Credits: Aukland Museum/YouTubeA volcano caused a lahar which wiped out the Colombian town of Armero in 1985

Credits: AFP

Colombian Omayra Sanchez, was trapped for more than 60 hours following the eruption of the Nevado Del Ruiz volcano and finally died on November 16

Credits: Wikimedia CommonsA lahar at Santiaguito

Ash clouds and molten lava are the first deadly wave of a volcanic eruption, but there is another, equally lethal phenomenon which can be caused by the weather. A lahar is a mixture of ash, mud and rock mixed with water which flows down a river channel like a moving wall of wet concrete.

See also: Pictures: Weird weather and strange phenomena around the world

Typically caused by heavy rainfall or a flood caused by melting ice, a lahar can flow at 35 kph (22 mph) and up to 140 metres (460 ft) deep, destroying everything in its path. When it stops flowing, it sets like concrete, trapping vehicles, homes, animals and people.

In 1985 a lahar wiped out Armero, in central Colombia. The initial eruption of the volcano Nevado del Ruiz melted the mountain's glaciers and sent four separate lahars pouring down its slopes at 60 kph (40mph), engulfing the town, where it killed more than 20,000.

Raining fish and frogs

Credits: KRCR NEWSFish were reportedly 'raining' from the sky in Oroville


Credits: KRCR NEWSThe fish appeared as children played outside

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In May 2017, staff at Oroville elementary school in California thought they were being pranked when a scattering of fish and frogs appeared on the playground and rooftops after a shower of rain. But during the break, as children played outside, a deluge of fish pelted pupils.

On 17 July 1841, a report in the Atheneum newspaper told of how small fish and frogs fell during a heavy thunderstorm in Derby. In 1931, a downpour of perch stopped the traffic in Bordeaux, while in 1830, in Jalalpur, India, fish weighing up to six pounds fell from the sky. And in 2004, Knighton, Powys - 50 miles from the coast - suffered a downpour of fish after a thunderstorm.

The explanation is simple. During a storm strong updraughts are powerful enough to suck up small objects in their path. If they cross sea water or rivers, they are capable of picking up small fish, frogs and carrying them several miles before dropping them. They can even be carried in the clouds as they are blown across the sky, heading back down when the heavy rain starts.

Tsunami of ice

Credits: Facebook/Twin Pines ResortHouses were destroyed by a sweeping tsunami of ice in Minnesota Facebook


Credits: Facebook/Twin Pines ResortThe ice destroyed everything in its wake

Homeowners in Minnesota stood by helplessly as houses were destroyed by a tsunami of ice in February 2013. The unstoppable frozen wave poured out of Mille Lacs Lake, across roads into the homes, leaving a trail of destruction.

The ice covered about 4.8 km (3 miles) of shore, up to a height of 9 metres (30 feet) and destroyed or damaged 27 homes.

Known as an ice floe, this is caused when a frozen lake begins to thaw and break up into small pieces and is combined with strong winds which push the ice over the banks and onto land.

Blood red sea

Credits: AFPA swimmer heads towards a red algae bloom


Credits: AFPRed algae created the appearance of a blood red sea at Sydney's Clovelly Beach on November 27, 2012

Credits: AFPThe bloom closed several beaches

Deadly heatwaves 'to kill up to 7,000 people a year in Britain and 100,000 across Europe' by 2080s

In both 2012 and 2016, beach-goers at Bondi Beach in Australia were horrified when the sea turned bright red, with some fearing a shark attack.

The crimson water was caused by a mass invasion of algae, encouraged by unusually warm weather. The sea temperature soared four degrees in a few days, causing an algae bloom, when the organisms gather together in the water.

Worm rain

Credits: Getty Images/EyeEmWorms were seen thudding onto the playground as they rained down on pupils

In 2011, a PE lesson at a school in Galashiels near Edinburgh was postponed when pupils heard a 'soft thudding' on the ground and saw earthworms falling out. In 2015 in Norway biologist Karsten Erstad also reported a light scattering on a snowy mountain where he was skiing. The ground was frozen under 15 metres (50 feet) of snow.

Worm showers can be caused by warm currents or thermals lifting them up as they emerge, and taking them some distance before the wind drops and they fall back onto the ground.

Blood rain

Credits: The Weather Channel/YoutubeBlood rain hit parts of India in 2001


Credits: The Weather Channel/YoutubeMany thought the terrifying blood rain was from aliens

Blood-red rain fell for two months in 2001 in Kerala in India. Locals reported a huge bang, like a thunderclap, and a flash of light before the first deluge.

Many believed the source of the rain was extraterrestrial, with an exploding meteor which dispersed tiny particles into the atmosphere, also blamed.

Scientists analysed DNA in the particles and found the colour was caused by the algal spores, Trentepohlia annulata, a species from Austria, which they suggested had been transported in clouds.

The Expert

BBC weather forecaster and former Strictly Come Dancing contestant Carol Kirkwood reveals what it is like to work as a weather presenter, talking about this "British obsession" in 'And Now the Weather'.

Carol reveals how weather forecasting has changed, from putting figures of suns and rain clouds on a map to the 3D digital methods we have today. And her favourite, she stresses, is still the Shipping Forecast.

Credits: AFPHurricane Irma brought 160mph winds to Cuba

And in Martinique homes were destroyed

Weather forecaster Carol Kirkwood reveals how being prepared for extremes can save your life

No power, water rationed and 70,000 in danger from dam about to collapse: Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Maria

She said: "I enjoy looking at what the weather is going to be way ahead of what we broadcast. Just like our audiences, we are keen to know if it is going to be dry and warm for our outdoor parties too – and we are as disappointed as anyone if the weather turns out to be different than expected!

"But there is very much a serious side to broadcasting a weather forecast. Sometimes knowing what is coming your way could even save your life and we work closely with the Met Office to ensure that any weather warnings are issued as quickly as possible."

AND NOW, THE WEATHER with a Foreword by Carol Kirkwood is published by BBC Books at £9.99 Available from bookshops and Amazon

Weird weather and strange phenomena around the world

Weird weather and strange phenomena around the world


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