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It's raining anchovies in San Francisco

A school of anchovy fish swimming together in the ocean.
It's a bird, it's a plane, no, it's an anchovy. (Image credit: Scott Eggers via Getty Images)

It's raining fish in San Francisco, and  locals are finding anchovies in unlikely places around the Bay Area, including sidewalks, driveways, rooftops and bus stops. 

Experts believe the fishy precipitation is the result of a surge in coastal anchovy populations, SF Gate (opens in new tab) reported.

Earlier this month, the Otolith Geochemistry and Fish Ecology Laboratory (opens in new tab) in the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology at the University of California, Davis advised the local community of an "anchovy spawn" event taking place in the lower portion of the San Francisco Bay, marking the episode as the "second-highest monthly total we have ever seen." Experts believe that seabirds are taking advantage of this bounty, and the birds don't know what to do with the embarrassment of riches. As a result, they are dropping fish from the sky like torpedoes as they indulge in the sudden all-you-can-eat buffet. 

News quickly spread across social media, with locals taking to Reddit (opens in new tab) to warn others to duck if they venture outside, likening the phenomenon to "Sharknado" movie series, while others jokingly encouraged people to start foraging as "Poseidon has blessed you with a bountiful harvest."

Reports of the fishy fallout have been recorded across the Bay Area, including in San Francisco's Outer Richmond and Castro neighborhoods. One local told SF Gate they "heard a whoosh sound behind me and heard a massive splat" while another "almost got hit by a fish waiting for the bus,"

Related: The weirdest things that fell from the sky

Larry Collins, president of the San Francisco Community Fishing Association, told SF Gate, "From Half Moon Bay to Point Reyes, people are telling me they've never seen bait this thick. I heard stories just last week from guys who said that the water out there was just covered with thousands of birds, and the birds were just sitting on the water with anchovies in their mouths because they can't eat anymore."

Experts have also recorded what they call upwelling, where "cold, nutrient-dense water rises from the ocean depths, replacing warm water at the surface."

"The water temperatures right now do appear to be colder than normal, and this has provided some much-needed food for animals such as anchovies, seabirds and marine mammals," Adam Ratner, associate director of conservation education at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, told SF Gate. "It is unclear how long this burst of cold water will last, and we know with climate change that the trend is pointing towards warmer water temperatures becoming the norm, but for the time being, this appears to be providing some additional support for fishing communities, migrating whales and our local sea lions." 

So, if you live in the Bay Area, the next time you go outside, make sure to carry an umbrella — or a bucket. 

Read all about the anchovy inundation at SF Gate (opens in new tab).

Originally published on Live Science.

Jennifer Nalewicki
Jennifer Nalewicki

Jennifer Nalewicki is a Salt Lake City-based journalist whose work has been featured in The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, Scientific American, Popular Mechanics and more. She covers several science topics from planet Earth to paleontology and archaeology to health and culture. Prior to freelancing, Jennifer was a reporter at Interior Design Magazine, and before that she held an Editor role at Time Inc. Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin.