What is 'blood rain'? The weather phenomenon expected to hit UK after winter wildfires

Not usually a good omen

Harry Cockburn
Thursday 28 February 2019 17:39
Blood rain phenomena have been recorded throughout history, though infrequently in the UK
Blood rain phenomena have been recorded throughout history, though infrequently in the UK

Following the highest temperatures ever recorded in winter, complete with wildfires erupting across the country, Britain’s apocalyptic weather bender is apparently continuing with “blood rain” as we enter spring.

No, Slayer haven’t taken over the Met Office, and no actual blood will be bleeding from a “lacerated sky”, but one of the reasons for the intempestive hot weather is southern winds coming from Africa over the past fortnight.

As well as delivering warm air, the winds have whipped Saharan dust high into the sky, which can then tinge clouds red, make the rain itself turn red, and when it dries, leave an orange crusty deposit - not unlike dried blood.

On Thursday this meteorological mayhem was detected in satellite imagery moving towards remote parts of Scotland, Met Office forecaster Becky Mitchell told The Independent.

But despite some media reports of a “massive 500-mile wide Saharan sand cloud” set to bring blood rain to Britain, Ms Mitchell said the UK was highly unlikely to see blood rain proper.

“You could see some Saharan dust across Scotland earlier, but that was about it,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Blood rain doesn’t really happen in this country as such. It’s not necessarily a meteorological term either,” she said. “It’s mostly in other countries when you get red dust particles in the air, it can rain out and the rain can appear red. But we can get dust settling on cars and things like that. That’s really it.”

“It has come from the Sahara. The southerly winds from Africa picked up that dust and brought it further north.”

But the forecast is now for westerly winds to hit the UK which are expected to blow remaining dust further east.

Blood rain has been documented numerous times since ancient history, with the first mention of the phenomenon in Homer’s Iliad, in which Zeus causes blood rain to fall as an omen of a bloody battle.

In the 14th Century, a blood rain supposedly heralded the arrival of the black death in Germany.

By the late 18th century scientists began trying to work out the causes for blood rain, and attributed red-coloured rainfall to dust, spores or aurora affecting light conditions.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments