Surreal scenes look like someone split the skies in two.

Summer in Japan is hot and humid, but winter is the exact opposite, cold and dry, for most of the country. Typical winter weather is a chill in the air and hardly a cloud in the sky, but residents of west Japan woke up to something different on Tuesday.

Sure, you could say the sky was clear and blue, but only up to a point, or, more accurately a line. In many of the prefectures grouped around the western end of the Seto Inland Sea, it looked like someone had used a ruler to draw a division between two different atmospheric motifs.

Or, alternatively, if your prefer your art of the digital variety, it seemed like the sky was glitching and not fully loading its graphical assets.

This wasn’t some small, ultra-localized phenomenon, either, as Twitter users from as far west as Fukuoka and as far east as Okayama, in towns on three of Japan’s main islands (Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu), posted photos and videos, like this one from the town of Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture, that came with the question “Who cut the sky in half?”

Depending on both your personal aesthetic and geographical perspectives, you could find these unusual clouds beautiful…

…or ominous…

…but it was the latter for more than a few Japanese Twitter users, who referred to these conditions as jishingumo, or “earthquake clouds.” Among those who subscribe to the theory, large, low-altitude clouds like these that retain their shape and position for a long period of time are harbingers of an upcoming earthquake, causing some who were snapping photos to do so with a mix of wonder and unease.

▼ “These clouds in Okayama are beautiful and creepy…I hope nothing bad happens.”

However, while jishingumo have been a part of Japanese folk wisdom for some time, scientists haven’t found any link between unusual cloud formations and subsequent seismic activity. Japanese meteorological organization Weather News was downright chipper as they discussed the clouds, cheerfully explaining that they’re the northern edge of a cloud front that was stretching southwest past Okinawa and all the way on to Taiwan, as shown on the satellite map in this video.

So while being earthquake-prepared is always a good idea in Japan, scientists don’t think the strange clouds in the sky are a precursor to the ground shaking.

Sources: Jin, Hachima Kiko, YouTube/ウェザーニュース, Wikipedia
Top image: Pakutaso (edited by SoraNews24)
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