In mid-2001, the skies opened up, unleashing a deluge of rain on the southern half of the Indian state of Kerala. But this was no ordinary rain. This was “blood rain,” a strange phenomenon where ordinary raindrops appear red in color. What caused the red rain? Something from this earth? Or did it come from somewhere else?
On July 25, 2001, the sky over Kerala erupted. Thunder roared. Light flashed. Then, strange red rain began to fall. Although the majority of these raindrops were red, other colors were also reported, including yellow, green, and black. Over the next two months, the blood rain made sporadic appearances, leaving a trail of shriveled leaves in its wake. Finally, on September 23, the last drop of red rain fell, marking the end of the unsettling storm.
While certainly rare, Kerala’s red rain was not unique. Ancient texts describe similar events throughout known history. For example, Homer’s Iliad states that Zeus caused blood to rain from the sky on two separate occasions. In 582 AD, Gregory of Tours reported on a rain of blood that caused Paris citizens to frantically disrobe themselves. And there were reports of blood rainstorms prior to the arrival of the Black Death. As some of you know, I tend to think that the Black Death was caused by a comet, the significance of which you will see shortly.
Where did the Red Rain Originate?
Numerous groups of researchers studied the physical evidence from Kerala. They quickly discovered that solid particles within the raindrops provided the reddish hue. These particles consisted of several elements, including carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, silicon, chlorine, as well as various metals. But where did they come from? Various theories have been put forth to explain Kerala’s blood rain. They include:
- Spores of Lichen: The Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) believes that the particles within the rain consist of lichen spores. Supposedly, heavy rains caused increased growth of the lichens. These lichens released their spores simultaneously, leading to a large build-up in the atmosphere. However, even the CESS indicated that this was a highly improbable scenario and furthermore, did not explain the widespread nature of the rain or how the spores got into the clouds in the first place.
- Transplanted Sand: In 1903, dust from the Sahara desert was sucked into the sky and deposited onto England during a series of rainstorms. Some researchers initially believed that Kerala’s red rain arose via similar means, with dust coming from the Arabian deserts. However, lab tests ultimately debunked this theory.
- Volcanic Eruption: One scientist suggested that the eruption of Mayon Volcano in the Philippines caused dust and other materials to enter the air. Jet streams proceeded to propel these particles to Kerala where they fell to the earth via rainstorms. However, this theory was also discarded due to the fact that the particles consisted of spores rather than dust.
- Outer Space: Many incidences of red rain throughout history can be tied to meteors or comets. In the case of Kerala, two physicists, Godfrey Louis and Santhosh Kumar, suggested that a meteor exploded over Kerala. Then, material mixed with the clouds and slowly drifted to the ground as rain over the next two months. While they conceded that the red rain contained biological matter, they proposed that this matter came from outer space, in line with the panspermia hypothesis. This conclusion, of course, is highly controversial.
No one seems to dispute the fact that the raindrop material was at least similar in shape and form to lichen spores. And yet, the mechanism by which those spores could’ve reached the atmosphere and stayed in the same area for over two months remains unknown.
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
Personally, I find the outer space theory particularly interesting. The disintegration of a meteor or comet would help explain the crashing sound and flashing light that preceded the blood rain. In addition, the idea that organic material can survive the extreme conditions of outer space is not as far-fetched as it first appears. In August 2009, NASA discovered glycine in Comet Wild-2. This represented the first time a chemical building block for life was discovered in outer space.
The source of Kerala’s mysterious blood rain continues to elude the world’s finest minds. However, the recent research, coupled with the NASA discovery, indicates that we might be closing in on an answer. Perhaps Kerala’s blood rain was nothing more than a freak infusion of localized lichen spores into the sky. On the other hand, maybe the rain came from somewhere else…somewhere beyond this world.