Scientists have found a (partial) explanation for the ‘blood rain’ in Spain

Rain showers can sometimes take a bizarre turn: in very rare cases, animals such as fish and frogs have been known to fall from the sky alongside water droplets, and around the world, people have experienced what’s known as blood rain, where the water has a peculiar red tinge.

Reports of blood rain have been recorded for centuries – back before humans knew any better, it was believed the sky was actually spitting out blood. Nowadays, we have the technology to analyse the composition of blood rain so we no longer have to jump to any crazy conclusions, but scientists are only just figuring out how and why it occurs. And now a new study has put forward an explanation for a recent incident in Zamora, a city in northwestern Spain.

The people of Zamora and several nearby villages noticed blood rain falling from the sky late last year: was it chemical pollution? Was it some kind of deliberate sabotage? Was it a sign from God? A concerned resident sent a sample of collected rainwater to scientists at Spain’s University of Salamanca to see if they could come up with any answers. And now the results are in.

The researchers say a freshwater green microalgae called Haematococcus pluvialis is to blame – this microalgae is capable of producing a red carotene pigment called astaxanthin when in a state of stress, perhaps caused by getting caught up in a rain-cloud.

That matches up with previous studies of blood rain, one of which found the microalgae  to be the cause of an incident in Kerala in India– different kinds of microalgae, but the same root cause.

AstaxanthinAstaxanthin in H. pluvialis. Credit: Frank Fox/Wikimedia

What’s less clear is how these microalgae spores are travelling. H. pluvialis is not native to Zamora or any of the neighbouring regions, and before the Kerala incident, T. annulata was thought to only exist in Austria – a long way from India. So now the researchers have to figure out exactly how these mysterious microorganisms are making their way across the globe.

Hitching a ride on global wind currents would be a good bet, but so far researchers have been unable to find any concrete proof of this. The researchers identified a prevailing current that could’ve carried the microalgae out from North America to Spain, but have yet to pinpoint the exact source. Their work has been published in the Spanish Royal Society of Natural History Journal.

In the meantime, there’s no cause for panic if you’re caught in a blood rain shower: H. pluvialis is non-toxic and is often used as a food source for salmon and trout to give them a more pinkish hue. Indeed, motorcycle company Yamaha recently used the microalgae to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its factories.

blood prainsBlood rain puddle from Zamora. Credit: Joaquín Pérez

Source: Scientists have found a (partial) explanation for the ‘blood rain’ in Spain

Scientists have found a (partial) explanation for the ‘blood rain’ in Spain

Three Category 4 hurricanes have just hit the Pacific Ocean at the same time

For the first time in recorded history, three Category 4 hurricanes have appeared in the Pacific Ocean at the same time, and they’re inching ever-closer to the Big Island of Hawaii. The never-before-seen meteorological event involves the hurricanes Kilo, Ignacio, and Jimena, the latter of which has sustained winds of up to 225 km/h.

According to the US Weather Channel, we haven’t seen anything close to this event before – three simultaneous Category 3 hurricanes have yet to be recorded. While the most immediate threat is to the coast of Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan are also currently on watch.

Right now, Ignacio poses the biggest threat to Hawaii; at midnight last Sunday, it was about 450 km to the southeast of the Big Island and is expected to travel north of the Hawaiian islands on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The hurricane, which has contained winds of up to 217 km/h, is unlikely to actually hit the coast, but experts are saying residents should expect heavy rain and winds of up to 63km/h as early as tonight, and a 6-metre swell and rip currents in the water before the storm settles back down later in the week. Needless to say – don’t go in the water.

After Ignacio sweeps past the north of Hawaii, it’s not yet clear in which direction it will head next.

Hurricane Jimena, on the other hand, is expected to sustain its ‘major hurricane’ status till at least the midweek, but so far, it poses no threat to any island just yet. But that’s only because forecasters aren’t really sure where its path will take it at this stage.

Kilo is the least threatening of the three, safely churning up the open waters of the Pacific with its 220 km/h winds.

The event has been linked to a stronger than usual El Niño event, which researchers are saying we should start to get used to, as many more are expected in the future.

“The appearance of the chain of hurricanes may be linked to the strengthening El Niño weather pattern being observed in the Pacific,” News.com.au reports. “The Australian Bureau of Meterology says the eastern half of the northern Pacific was now more than one degree warmer than the averages – with patches more than 2 degrees higher.”

Hopefully no one wil be hurt in the upcoming tropical storms, but one thing’s for sure, the event did provide an incredible photo opportunity:

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Source: Three Category 4 hurricanes have just hit the Pacific Ocean at the same time

Three Category 4 hurricanes have just hit the Pacific Ocean at the same time