Strange Types Of Weather With Fantastical Names

Photo courtesy of Albert Herring via Wikimedia Commons

There’s the weather we’re used to — sunshine, rain, snow, etc — and then there’s the weather that seems like something out of sci-fi novel or religious text.

As it happens, the names of such weather events kind of sound like the name of sci-fi novels too — if not My Little Pony characters or indie band names. Or maybe pro wrestlers. The list could go on.

Some of these rare types of weather are a wonder to witness, and others are a downright terror, causing onlookers to either pray for their lives or post awe and laughter-inspired videos a la the double rainbow guy.

Here’s our favorite strange weather events:


[contextly_auto_sidebar id=”vTQFyElDsItwo0LGh0Y10hpn6rEUSZD2″]Thundersnow is exactly what it sounds like, unless you think it sounds like a mythical beast of the alps. Typically thunderstorms occur in warm weather, when cool winds clash with tropical ones — so the inclusion of snow in this stormy cocktail is strange indeed.

This rare meteorological spectacle occurred in Australia in July 2015 when the atmosphere in the Blue Mountains was cold enough during a thunderstorm to precipitate snow instead of rain.  It can be dangerous, too: in 1910 thundersnow caused an avalanche that killed 96 train passengers.

Hole punch cloud


People who see this weather event often think they are witnessing a wormhole to another dimension or a UFO, and to their credit, that’s exactly what a hole punch cloud, also known as a fallstreak hole, looks like.

In actuality, the fallstreak hole is a circular gap formed in the clouds when ice crystals cause surrounding water droplets to evaporate, leaving a hole punch shape.


Here’s a friendlier one that could double as a name for your next kitten. A moonbow is essentially a rainbow that is produced by light reflected off the surface of the moon, which appears opposite the moon in the night sky or refracted in rain or mist.

Because moonlight is so dim, moonbows often appear white to the naked eye. But through long exposure photographs, the colors can be more easily distinguished.

Fire whirl

This may sound like a bike trick or menacing rollercoaster ride, but it’s much more hardcore than even these things combined. A fire whirl is, in itself, the unholy combination or flame and tornado, also known as a Firenado.

It happens when a whirlwind is induced by fire, rising heat and turbulent winds. It consists of a core — that which is literally on fire — and the invisible rotating winds that carry it. Rarely do fire whirls reach full-tornado size, but when they do, it’s doubtful even the crew from Twister would want anything to do with them.


Is this A, a pokemon; B, a bacteria; C, or an icy underwater finger of death? C, final answer: these tapering, vertical tubes will disrupt your submarine vacation in a pinch (or a pierce).

Essentially large stalagmites of the ocean, brinicles are an underwater weather phenomenon formed when a flow of extremely cold saline water or dense, sinking brine is introduced to sea water, where it freezes in tubular fashion and grows deeper and deeper. This formation was filmed for the first time in 2011.

Diamond Dust & Sun Dogs


Though it sounds like a digital currency or illicit drug, this meteorological wonder won’t buy you any pizza much less get you high.

Diamond dust is, instead, a ground-level cloud composed of tiny ice-crystals. It forms under clear skies in freezing conditions, and is most frequent in Antarctica and the Arctic.

The crystals in diamond dust can act as prisms, refracting sunlight horizontally to render a sundog: a pair of colorful bright spots on either side of the sun.

Non-aqueous rain

Lastly, this type of weather makes us question whether it actually could rain cats and dogs, or even men, why not? Non-aqueous rain is when it literally rains animals instead of water, and yes, it has been reported throughout history.

How is this possible? Some say tornado water-spouts or heavy winds pick up creatures like fish, frogs, worms and even spiders and nd carry them miles in the sky before gravity pours them upon our sorry souls.

The result? Less of a “halleluia,” and more of an “AH!” Less of a song, and more of a scream for bloody murder, unless you’re in the mood for tuna.

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Jennifer Markert