From monsoons to avalanches, blizzards to tornadoes, weather is one of the wildest things on Earth! Here are ten things you may not have known about the planet’s smog clouds, squalls and storms.
1. A pine cone is one of the most reliable of all natural weather indicators. In dry weather, the scales on a pine cone open out; when they close up, it’s a good sign that rain is on the way.
2. On rare occasions, raindrops may catch the reflection of bright moonlight to form a moonbow. The colors of the moonbow are faint but they are the same as those seen in a rainbow during daytime.
3. Vast areas of the Arctic and Antarctic, where it's always cold, are covered in a permanent sheet of ice up to 985 feet thick!
4. The hottest place in the world is Dallol in Ethiopia, where annual temperatures average 94° Fahrenheit.
5. The strong updrafts that bring heavy rain have been known to lift creatures as large as frogs and fish up into the air. But no one claims that the old saying “It’s raining cats and dogs” is literally true. It may be based on the ancient Chinese spirits for rain and wind, which were sometimes depicted as a cat and a dog.
6. The largest hailstone ever found fell in Coffeyville, Kansas in 1970, and weighed 1.7 lb!
7. For centuries, it’s been a mystery why perfect circles, called crop circles, appear at random in fields in the summer. A few people believe it may be whirling, tornado-like winds which cause them.
8. In thundery weather, sailors occasionally see a strange, glowing ball of light on the masthead. Called “St. Elmo’s Fire”, this is actually an electrical discharge, like lightning.
9. Heavy industry and millions of coal fires once made London so dirty that the city was famous for its fogs “as thick as pea soup”, when visibility would drop to 50ft or less.
10. People in ancient China were flying kites in the wind as long ago as 500 B.C. Some were made in the shape of dragons to frighten enemies. Others were made large enough to carry people!
Want to know more? These DK books are packed with a perfect storm of weather facts: