June 16, 1939: National Geographic reports that “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 that dips into the ocean, lake, or pond. Waterspouts can spin up to 100 miles per hour, and may pull up small objects in their funnel—water, pebbles, and small aquatic animals. 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 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. On June 16 1939 in Towbridge, England, such a rain occurred with reports that hundreds of tiny frogs fell before a heavy shower.
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