Here's How It Can Rain Without Any Clouds

While we understand weather enough to predict it within a rough range of accuracy, every rule of nature is made to be broken. Most learned in early elementary school that raindrops form from condensation stored in clouds. This is an intuitive and easily-observable fact; on a rainy day, there's almost always an angry gray cloud or three to go with it. 

This isn't always the case. In Hawaii (per The New York Times), they attribute the phenomenon to a hole in the sky (pukalani). It's also known there as "pineapple juice." This is just one way among many to describe the appearance of rain falling from the sun, or an empty, cloudless, azurean sky. Also known as "sunshowers," this meteorological phenomenon has sparked superstition around the world. Odd as they are to witness, sunshowers have a pretty ordinary explanation: Things are not always as they appear, especially not in the sky.

The weather phenomena are known as sunshowers

While the term "sunshower" doesn't always appear in dictionaries (via Macmillan Dictionary), various regional dialects have their own euphemisms for describing the bizarre meteorological event of cloudless rain. According to The New York Times, World Wide Words, and Alchetron, a sunshower is referred to as a nuptial event between foxes, rats, jackals, hyenas, leopards, monkeys, bears, donkeys, wolves, or — last but not least — various matrimonial encounters between the devil and his wife, varying from allusions to his wedding day. Raining with no clouds? "The devil is getting married." Sometimes people ascribe the phenomenon to the devil engaging in acts of domestic abuse.

In some dialects spoken in Pakistan, the betrothed jackal has one eye (per Alchetron). In Korea, it's an interspecies marriage. In Tanzania, a lioness is giving birth. In Finland, no one is getting married; instead, the foxes are taking a bath. Such an expansive array of euphemisms probably evolved to describe an event that looks like something is off. When it rains, there are clouds. When those clouds are MIA, something suspicious is going on, right?

Sunshowers have a pretty ordinary explanation

The phenomenon is described as a "sunshower" because that's exactly what it appears to be: rain falling from the sun. Rest assured, however: if you're currently thinking such an event makes absolutely no sense at all, you are completely correct. The sun is neither weeping nor dispensing rain via its solar portal 93 million miles away. There are just rain clouds in the distance, the sun is angled so they're out of sight, and wind is blowing the rain in your direction. By this explanation, sunshowers sound like a tragically mundane meteorological event. They really do look strange, though. Nature is almost never exactly as it appears, and perhaps that fact is not dull, but a fascinating illustration of the natural world's complexity.

In The New York Times, atmospheric scientist Gary Lackmann of North Carolina State University explained what we're seeing when the foxes are about to be wed: "'... Sun showers' are really just rain showers that take place with partly cloudy or broken cloud conditions ... I'm not a fan of the term."