Bloody Awful Weather

January 29, 2016
Lunar Eclipse April 2015
Wikimedia, taken by Alfredo Garcia, Jr.

It’s enough to make a superstitious person hide under a blanket for the rest of the year. A week after a “blood moon” came a “blood rain”.

All of this occurred within 3 weeks of a total solar eclipse. If you don’t know the science, then all you know is that the sun disappeared, the moon turned red and then bloody-looking red rain fell from the skies.

Yikes!

Sometimes the weather is scary!

Most people understand eclipses. The solar eclipse was the moon passing between the earth and the sun. The “blood moon” was a lunar eclipse, the moon passing through the Earth’s shadow. The Earth’s atmosphere focuses some light on the moon, but some of the shorter wavelengths of light (blues and violets) are scattered so the moon turns a bloody red.

On April 4, 2015, a “blood moon” floated through the skies. Source: Wikimedia, taken by Alfredo Garcia, Jr.

Blood rains, however, are more mysterious.  Ever since Homer wrote about the Greek gods raining blood as a warning of death and warfare, Europe has recorded red rains that left bloody looking stains on clothing and buildings. In Germany, showers of blood rain warned villages of the outbreak of the Black Death in 1348 – 1349. For centuries, these red showers were regarded as the ultimate bad omen.

So does that mean that England is doomed because red rain fell from the skies during the second weekend of April?

Actually, what most scientists think is happening is that typical British rain is colliding with a very untypical large dust storm from the Sahara desert. The iron rich oxide dust is rusty red, so when it gets caught up in raindrops, the water turns red as well. In Texas, which had a similar dusty rain storm in San Antonio in 2008, locals call it “mud rain”, which is browner and much less spooky. However, Europe usually gets its desert dust from the reddish Sahara sands, so they have ominous “blood” events.

The Karala blood rain. Source: Wikipedia contributed by Godfrey Louis and A. Santhosh Kumar.

In some rare cases, the red in the rain hasn’t been dust. In Karala India, a “blood rain” in 2006 was colored by algae and fungus cells. Yeech!

Still, you can come out from under the blanket. The only danger you face from the bloody bad weather is a mud bath.

About This Blog

The column, “Weather Whispers,” is authored by James Garriss and Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologists and weather addicts!  Whether you enjoy the science of weather or the fascinating folklore or just fun weather phenomena, it’s probably covered by these weather watchers!