6 Bizarre Things That Happen When It’s About to Storm

Even when you can't find a weather report, nature gives its own signs that a downpour is on its way.

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storm is coming
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Before a storm hits, tree leaves turn over

This old-timer’s claim actually has research to back it up. Before a storm hits, the humidity usually skyrockets, which makes the leaf stems on trees that drop their leaves in autumn go limp. Without their usual rigidity, those leaves show their undersides when the wind rustles them.

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Macro side view of the front of the large light, fluffy moth with krylmi Caucasian, legs, head, eyes, antennae squatting on a green blade of grass
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Bugs get less frisky

When barometric pressure drops before the rain, bugs lose interest in mating, according to a study in PLoS ONE. Researchers looked at the mating behaviour of different bug species—cucurbit beetles, potato aphids and true armyworm moths—and all three species had similar reactions. When it felt like it was going to rain, the females put out fewer mating signals, and the males didn’t react as strongly to their pheromones. The bugs would still mate if they were put near each other, but they’d get it over with quickly instead of going through their full mating rituals.

Here are more animals that can (supposedly) predict the weather.

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bird and dramatic clouds
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Birds might flee

In 2013, scientists tracking golden-winged warbler migrations were confused when the birds suddenly fled the Tennessee mountains, each travelling solo rather than in a flock. There was a storm brewing 900 kilometres away, but there was seemingly nothing that could have clued them in—the wind speeds, precipitation and atmospheric pressure hadn’t changed. After the storm passed, the birds came back. Researchers figure the birds can sense sounds that are too low for humans to hear.

Check out more scientific mysteries we tend to take for granted.

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Storm clouds
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The air’s scent changes

It’s not just in your head—there really is a certain smell in the air before the rain hits. That fresh scent you detect is coming from ozone. As a storm approaches, the downward draft of air pushes ozone molecules closer to the ground, where they reach your nose.

Don’t miss these weird facts about lightning strikes.

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Close up view of the working bees on honeycells.
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Bees work extra hard

Research from Jiangxi Agricultural University suggests that bees can predict when it’s going to rain and stock up on food to prepare. The scientists tracked 300 honeybees for more than a month and found something interesting: The day before it rained, the bees worked later than usual, likely to stock up on food because they don’t like to leave when it’s pouring.

Here’s what it’s really like to be struck by lightning.

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scared brown labrador puppy lying on the floor
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Dogs get nervous

If your dog is scared of thunderstorms, it might start acting out even before the storm hits. Vets suspect that dogs can predict bad weather because they sense changes in the atmosphere’s pressure, hear low-frequency thunder rumbles before humans can, or feel static electricity. Those changes can freak dogs out, and your pet might hide, claw, or pace earlier than you’d expect.

Next, find out 13 things you should never do in a thunderstorm.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest