We’re Open Today
10:00am to 5:00pm

San Diego Phenomena

Phenomena in Science Education

Phenomena are the natural and man-made observable events that provide context for the work of scientists and engineers. Recent science standards changed the focus from learning about science to figuring out science. Phenomena are a powerful way to engage students and empower them to wonder and investigate.

Sometimes, we look too hard for the phenomenal events and miss the every-day occurrences that are just as intriguing. The list below is a constant work in progress and will be updated as new submissions are received and new occurrences are observed in and around San Diego County.

Submit a Phenomenon

Did you observe something that made you stop and wonder? Share your phenomena and any supporting material like photographs, videos or additional resources.

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
Calcium buildup around faucets and hoses

Image: Fleet Science Center

San Diego imports most of its water. That water travels hundreds of miles through rock and soil, which causes a build-up of minerals. These minerals increase the "hardness" of the water, compared to "soft" water that has fewer or no minerals. Calcium, one of the minerals found in San Diego water, can leave white stains around faucets and hoses. 


City of San Diego

San Diego Water Quality Reports 

Distinct features are visible at night from space

San Diego-area at night from space. Image: NASA

Astronauts in the International Space Station snap photographs of Earth from a height of 220 miles above the ground. At night, distinct features appear.

What do you see? What don't you see? What can we learn about the human impact on Earth from so far away? 


NASA: China's Wall Less Great from Space

NGSS Connections:

5-ESS3-1, ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems


May and June have fewer sunny days.

Image: UCSD

May Gray. June Gloom. There's data and science to support the time of the year that sees a higher amount of cloud cover near coastal areas in southern California. 



California-Nevada Climate Applications Program

UCSB Geography


The ocean glows blue at night

Image: Erik Jepsen

In May 2018, ocean waves lit up aqua blue at night. The cause was a red tide, or algal bloom, off the coast of San Diego. The ocean waves agitated dinoflagellates in the water, causing a bioluminescent display at the surface. 

According to Scripps, the last bioluminescent phenomena was in 2013 and the observable occurrence can last a few days to an entire month. 


Scripps Institution of Oceanography

University of California Museum of Paleontology

YouTube: Bioluminescent Waves

Large balls of ice can fall from the sky

Image: World of Phenomena

Ice is not normally associated with San Diego, but on the morning of February 27, 2018, areas including Carlsbad, Escondido, Ramona and El Cajon experienced a passing hailstorm. Hail starts as rain droplets that freeze at high altitudes. With the right conditions, these frozen rain droplets combine with other droplets and grow larger until the hail gets heavy enough to drop from the storm cloud. 

How does hail stay suspended in the air? Is hail always the same size? Why or why not? 


Hail Storm Reports: Union-Tribune, 2/2018

World of Phenomena: Hailstorms

YouTube: eHowEducation - Hail

NASA Education: How does hail form?