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Sunday, July 29, 2001

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Multicolour rain

By Roy Mathew

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JULY 28. After red, yellow and green rain, it is now black rain. It poured in black colour in Kottayam district on Saturday. Reports about coloured rain have come from Palakkad, Kottayam, Ernakulam and Pathanamthitta districts in the past two days.

While red rain was widely reported, yellow rain was reported from Chittar in Pathanamthitta district.

People have collected red rain water in vessels and samples have been brought to the Centre for Earth Sciences here from Changanassery in Kottayam district for analysis.

Though the rain is often referred to as red, the actual colour is close to that of diluted wine (brownish red).

It is found to have some particulate matter which settles down on standing for some time.

The Director of the Centre, Dr. M. Baba, said the chemical analysis would take a few days.

According to scientists, some reddish tinge remained even after the solid material settled down.

But it might take up to 21 days for suspended matter in water to settle down.

A search on the Internet for incidence of coloured rain shows that yellow, green, black and red rain are not very uncommon, though most of the citations are from 19th or the early years of 21st century. The reasons cited for the colour of the rain water vary. Various chemicals have been found in the rain water, some of which are thought to be of volcanic or meteoric origin.

Red rain from Europe has been largely explained away as the result of sand from the Sahara being blown into the air by whirlwinds and coming down in southern Europe mixed with rain and appearing red. But earthquakes have followed red rain in England in the past.

There were reports of peculiar substance in the rain consisting of red iron ocher, line carbonate and unspecified organic matter.

Swams of butterflies and fungi are also said to cause the colour. Sulphur, chloride of cobalt are other chemicals often associated with yellow and red rain.

Analysis of red rain has come even in reputed magazine such as Nature. But there had been no common explanation, though red rain and its variants have occurred in all continents.

For those who believe in prophesies, red and black rain are not good omens.

There is mention of them in the apocalypse and some other prophesies. For those who love comics, there is the Batman story titled Red Rain. Then there are several poems out there that sing about red rain.

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