29+ Warning Signs From Nature Before Disaster Strikes


| LAST UPDATE 04/18/2022

By Eliza Gray

Nature always seems to be one step ahead of the game. From impending tornadoes to landslides that could strike at any moment, here are the subtle ways that natural elements hint to us that danger is afoot.

J-Shaped Trees

This is no purposeful gardening, rather a possibly life-saving warning signal that danger could strike at any moment. In the lead-up to a landslide, the ground shifts subtly. And while humans may not notice it, the trees do.

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Wikimedia Commons via rzuwig

The shifts in the ground result in trees growing in this J-shaped formation. In addition, other tell-tale signs that a landslide is approaching include cracks in the ground - whether it be in the soil or pavement! Luckily, this disaster tends to strike only in hilly regions.

Dropping Sea Levels

The Ring of Fire refers to the stretch of coastline that meets the Pacific Ocean. And while it's known for breathtaking views, it's also known for natural disasters - tsunamis included. And over time, people have learned some important cues that let them know one may be on the way.

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Wikimedia Commons via Per Honor et Gloria

For anyone who sees the water retreating quickly, it's best to get to as high as possible. Swept away waters can also reveal worrisome sights like stranded fish and exposed coral. If any of those are noted, there's a chance that the storm's 500 miles/hour winds are on their way.

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A Wall of Clouds

A sight like this may not be such a shock for Americans living in the Tornado Alley. Peaceful cloud gazing in states like Texas, Louisiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, and many more can turn dangerous very quickly when a wall of clouds is spotted. And here's why.

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Wikimedia Commons via Brad Smull, NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library

Due to conflicting air pressures in the sky, wall clouds can form below a thunderstorm. And that can create the perfect environment for a tornado to brew. All it takes is the right mixture of air pressure and rotating clouds, and suddenly, the Wizard of Oz may become a reality.

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Passage of Choppy Water

Waves are part of the beach experience. However, not all types of waves make for ideal swimming conditions, in fact, some are outright dangerous. And choppy waters are an indication that staying ashore is best recommended. In addition, water discoloration or uneven spacings between waves can mean trouble.

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Instagram via @just_shoot_light

These signals all indicate the presence of a natural phenomenon referred to as rip currents. They are incredibly forceful channels of water that are rushing away from the coastline. They have claimed the lives of hundreds of unsuspecting swimmers each year in the U.S., giving them quite the reputation.

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Fleeing Animals

While it may not have the stamp of approval from scientific research to back it up, this next warning signal has been passed down between generations since as early as 373 BC in Greece. People back then reported that small rodents and insects would make a run for it just days before an earthquake struck.

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Wikimedia Commons via Jorge Royan

Today, it's widely accepted that animals pick up on this natural disaster a couple of seconds before humans do. But, it apparently has less to do with some sixth sense and more to do with their ability to detect incredibly subtle movements and sounds compared to the general population.

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Animals Charging Towards Humans

As mentioned above, animals fleeing their homes have been linked with earthquake detection, but animals running in the direction of humans can often mean something completely different - but equally grave. It's been widely reported that it's associated with wildfires.

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NOAH BERGER / Contributor via Getty Images

Some animals with excellent burrowing skills try to dig their way to safety, but others are left with no other option than to run. For forest fire-prone regions like Western North America and Australia, this is, unfortunately a site that folks have become all too familiar with.

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Hairs Standing Up

While being struck by lightning has gained a reputation for being as rare as a lottery win, in reality, it claims more lives than casualties of shark attacks in some instances. Luckily, the statistics are in a steady decline thanks to increased awareness about the warning signs of impending storms.

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STR / Contributor via Getty Images

Some of these tell-tale signs include hairs standing upright or jewelry starting to buzz. Chances are that if these things happen, lightning is close by. If that's the case, it's best to seek shelter by reducing contact with the ground as much as possible. Once it's safe to move, leaving the location is recommended.

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Sharks Headed to Deep Waters

While the likelihood of catching this in person is slim, the swimming patterns of sharks can give helpful insight when it comes to approaching storms - specifically if a hurricane is on its way. Of course, if that's the case, then being in the water isn't recommended at all.

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Alexis Rosenfeld / Contributor via Getty Images

If hoards of sharks are noted to be seeking shelter in deeper waters, it's often a reliable indication that a storm is on its way to the coast. This is associated with their ability to sense the drop in the barometric pressure, which alerts them to get out of harm's way.

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Loud Surge of Water

Floods don't tend to come out of anywhere. And when it comes to city-dwelling, this devastating natural disaster has a lead-up that usually involves a really heavy rainfall and infrastructure that can't handle the water flow. That being said, one sign, in particular, can signal trouble.

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Wikimedia Commons via Kingbob86

If, after heavy rainfall, a loud surge of water can be heard, it is incredibly recommended to seek shelter at the highest point possible. Whether that means climbing onto a car as pictured above or getting onto a roof, these storms require serious action. After all, they are one of the deadliest storms in America.

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Not a Golden-Winged Warbler In Sight

These birds may be small, but they carry the heavy load of earthquake detection. It all started back in 2014 when scientists connected the dots between the Tennessee golden-winged warbler population and a storm. In a strange coincidence, this flock of birds flew a 900-mile trip to escape an earthquake.

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Rolf Nussbaumer/imageBROKER via Shutterstock

They fled from Tennessee to Florida only to return less than a week later. Their intuitive trip has been linked to their ability to hear infrasound that was emitted from the storm. Unfortunately, humans lack the ability to pick up on this sound. But, at the very least, people can follow the lead of these small birds.

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Sun Ring

Despite what many people think, the phenomenon of sun rings isn't just something that happens when we look through glasses or a camera lens. They can appear before our very eyes and hint at upcoming weather trends! And it's all thanks to a specific type of cloud known as cirrus clouds.

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Wikimedia Commons via Adam Selwood

When at the right thinness and position, minuscule ice shards in the clouds reflect light, creating the rings. But beware - these clouds tend to pop up as a storm is approaching. Hence, while they may be nice to look at, it's best to prepare for some inclement weather because a low-pressure system can bring some precipitation.

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Washed-Up Fish

The odd deceased fish here or there on the beach shouldn't raise any red flags. But hoards of them? Sound the alarms. It can be a clear indication that the water is toxic to the health of not only the animals that populate the waters but humans that enter as well.

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Wikimedia Commons via Intersofia

It can also point to an eerie phenomenon known as red tides. As pictured above, red tides occur when a large amount of poisonous algae congregates close to the shoreline. While sometimes it can change the color of the water entirely, other signs include difficulty breathing or an irritated throat after being in the water.

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Medical Detection from Dogs

This may not be a wall of clouds or slanted trees, but it's a warning sign from the natural world nonetheless. Dogs have gained a reputation for centuries for their sensitive nature and ability to pick up on subtle cues from humans. They're so good at it that sometimes they perceive things before their owners do.

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Anadolu Agency / Contributor via Getty Images

Thanks to their powerful sense of smell, dogs have been noted to detect cancer. Hence, if a pooch is overtly focused on a particular area in its owner's body, it's a good indication that it's worth getting it checked out by a medical professional. Scientists have even begun studying this lifesaving ability.

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Cracked Snow

When it comes to partaking in alpine winter activities, a fun day on the mountain can quickly become a dangerous situation with the snap of a finger. From ice storms to avalanches, weather can take a drastic turn and has claimed the lives of many winter activity enthusiasts that weren't able to react quickly enough.

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Twitter via @accidentfund

However, there are some vital signs that an avalanche could be near. For example, a hollow sound coming from underneath the snow or cracks in its surface could indicate that a slide is underway. Also, warm weather or heavy precipitation can mean trouble for hikers and skiers.

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Rising Water Levels

For certain topographic areas, heavy rainfall is an unavoidable part of the yearly change of seasons. However, rainfall can signal much bigger trouble: floods. Here's an important signal to look out for when it comes to accumulated water after or during a storm.

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Wikimedia Commons via Shootthedevgr

If the water rushing has taken on a murky color, there's a chance it's carrying eroded ground that has washed up. For drivers that come across this site, it's best to turn off from the streets because just two feet of water can wash the car away. Keep scrolling for more...

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Roaring Waves

This isn't any peaceful white noise coming from ocean waves... Rather, this next helpful warning sign can save lives as a tsunami approaches the shoreline. If the water emits a sound likened to a huge train speeding along the tracks, it's a good indication that a huge surge of water is on its way.

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Wikimedia Commons via David Rydevik

While they get their own name, tsunamis are actually the result of earthquakes that happen underwater. They tend to strike in tropical Pacific regions and have left devastating destruction wherever they've hit. To stay safe, it's recommended to seek shelter on high ground.

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Green Skies

If you're up in the North, close to the Arctic circle, then green skies can be a beautiful byproduct of the Northern lights. But if you're in the Tornado Belt in America? Well, they may be intriguing to look at, but they could be signaling something far more dangerous.

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Instagram via @mikeintx

The green occurs from the blue light that emits from the storm in combination with the red light that comes from the sun. It's a result of a thundercloud that can bring with it anything from a tornado to major hail. Either way, it's best to get indoors as fast as possible - in fact, heading to a basement is ideal.

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Lakes Near Volcanoes

Volcanoes are equally as mesmerizing as they are dangerous. And if there happens to be a lake nearby, that only adds to the potential risks. The combination of elements can cause quite the trouble for anyone nearby - especially if the temperature surrounding the lake stays high.

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Wikimedia Commons via Bill Evans/USGS

If that's the case, the lake can pretty much be likened to a giant carbonated drink that's ready to burst at any moment. The magma from the volcano can force CO2 to the bottom of the body of water, which creates a high-pressure environment that eventually must release. It's referred to as a limnic eruption and is often deadly.

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Square Waves

Thanks to descriptions in poetry, the ocean is often likened to something uncontrollable. So, if it's so unpredictable, it must be incredibly shocking to see waves arranged in such a need square-like formation. But, beware: while it may be mesmerizing, it means trouble.

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Wikimedia Commons via Michel Griffon

Just as it is pictured above, square patterns in coastal waters are known as "cross sea," and it's created by shifting winds. For swimmers and boats alike, it can be a deadly situation, as powerful currents are surging under the water's surface. The one pictured above occurred off the coast of France.

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Fallstreak Holes

Whether people believe in extraterrestrial life or not, it's pretty hard to argue that this chunk of clear sky doesn't look like the doing of a UFO. Technically, it's called a "fallstreak," however, they have been closely linked to proof of extraterrestrial life in some circles.

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Flickr via puffin11k

But how do they appear? Well, they are created in upper-level clouds that have been disturbed by passing planes. As the jet flies by, it cools the surrounding air, creating a difference in temperature. While some water droplets freeze and others don't, this incredible phenomenon is the byproduct.

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Murky Well Water

While these giant pits in the ground look like the perfect backdrop for an apocalyptic movie, in reality, they come with a great deal of danger - mainly because it's hard to predict just what size they'll end up being. And people in regions with limestone are in particular danger.

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Hector Vivas / Stringer via Getty Images

Limestone has the unique property that it can disintegrate in water. So, a heavy rainfall season can come with risks. Thankfully, there are some key warning signs to look out for, including splits in the flooring or walls, ill-fitting doors, and discolored well water.

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Streaks in the Sky

As this photo proves, some of nature's warning signs are pretty appealing to the eyes. But, if spotted, this cloud formation should sound-off alarm bells for any passersby. For this is no creation from passing jets, rather a signal that a tornado could be on its way.

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Wikimedia Commons via John Kerstholt

In technical terms, this cloud system is called an inflow band and symbolizes that low-level air is being sucked in from surrounding areas by the storm. For storm hunters and emergency responders, this is a big indication that people need to get indoors ASAP.

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Green or Pungent Water

No, this isn't a pristine-looking golf course. Rather, it's a small pond that is most definitely not safe to enter. In fact, when it comes to bodies of water that have a pungent odor or a vibrant green color to it, it's best to avoid any contact - pets included. And here's why.

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Wikimedia Commons via Felix Andrews

The scent and appearance that goes along with the pond pictured above all point to an algal bloom. That means that there is a higher level of algae in the water than usual. Depending on the type of plant, it can be known to harm humans and animals alike - and can sometimes contain poison from fertilizer compounds.

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Cave Dwelling During a Full Moon

As appealing as a camp-out on the beach during a full moon may seem, this seemingly harmless outdoor activity can come with some big risks. But, don't worry, this is no cautionary tale about a beach-dwelling werewolf, rather a very real natural phenomenon that can result in a dangerous situation.

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Gary Kavanagh via Getty Images

Essentially, full moons can bring about a pattern of tides known as the Spring Tide. While it's always best to read the signs of the ocean when it comes to rising and falling water levels, Spring Tides can especially bring about extra-high tides because of the perfect alignment between the sun, Earth, and moon.

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Noisy Rattlesnakes

Except for Harry Potter and other fictional characters, the majority of humanity does not possess the ability to speak directly with snakes. And it's a shame because an ability to understand these reptiles could avoid some nasty (and sometimes poisonous) bites. Luckily, rattlesnakes have their own way of telling us what's what.

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Joe McDonald via Getty Images

The hard-looking tip of its tale is formed by dead skin and, when shaken, produces a rattle-like noise. Thanks to thoughtful evolution, this snake can use its tail to alert predators not to approach. After all, this animal produces a venomous bite that is known to kill prey.

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Red Skies

For fans of old-time sayings, there's one that goes like this: "Red sky at night, sailor's delight, Red sky in the morning, sailor's warning." But is there any science to back up its claims? Can the color of the sky truly predict weather patterns? Well, in short, there is a degree of truth to it!

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Wikimedia Commons via Erik Streb

Essentially, the red skies photographed above appear thanks to sun rays reflecting off both dust particles and water droplets - and those two elements can point to weather patterns that typically move west to east. Hence, a red sky at night points to clear weather, and a red sky in the morning - not so much.

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Volcanic Signals

With adequate tools and formulas to predict activity, volcanoes have gone from city-decimating disasters to appealing tourist attractions around the world. However, if visiting one, there are some important signs to look out for. At the end of the day, nature has its own schedule...

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Witthaya Prasongsin via Getty Images

A volcano eruption can come with some mild earthquake activity and gas emissions. Unfortunately, those two signs are pretty difficult to clock, so it's best to check with supervising experts before getting too close to a live volcano on a nature hike.

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Funnel Clouds

From green skies to inflow bands, it seems as though tornadoes have created their very own communication style to let us know that they're on the way. And thank goodness for that, because getting caught unprepared can be a deadly situation. Here's yet another warning signal for them...

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Instagram via @getleanjourney

Funnel clouds are cylindric cloud formations that seemingly drop out of the sky from storms. They consist - like all clouds - of water droplets. Seem harmless, right? Well, add in a spinning motion, and they can quickly transform into tornadoes. Keep scrolling for more...

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Mushrooms Near Trees

For those who get their mushrooms at their local grocery store, anything other than the usual portobello, shiitake, or oyster can raise some questions. After all, some wild breeds of mushrooms can have some adverse side effects, including hallucination and toxic properties.

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Instagram via @david_del_oeste

The most lethal fungi are part of the Amanita family, which includes ominous mushrooms, including the death cap and destroying angel. And while it can be tough to distinguish them whilst out and about in a forest, it's best to avoid mushrooms growing too close to trees.

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Brightly-Colored Animals

Over the years, animals have found ways of discouraging predators from coming too close. But to humans, it can be quite confusing as we are often intrigued by brightly colored things. However, when it comes to wildlife, the general rule is that the more colorful they are, the more dangerous they are.

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ullstein bild / Contributor via Getty Images

From butterflies to frogs and snakes, countless animals have adopted bright colorings to warn that they're poisonous if consumed. For snakes, this can not only ward off predators but humans, too, because their bites can contain venom. While they may be pretty, it's best to enjoy their beauty from a safe distance...

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