Last week, I explored some of the weather myths that down through the years have proven to be untrue. This time, let’s consider some proverbs that are generally reliable guides to changes in the weather. These tend to relate to the condition of the atmosphere, the appearance of the sky, the character and movement of clouds, and the force and direction of the wind.
Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips said that these short-term weather proverbs are pretty reliable:
“Red sky at night, sailor’s (shepherd’s) delight,
“Red sky in morning, sailors (shepherds) take warning!”
The logical theory is that, since weather in Canada generally moves from west to east, whatever is in the reddish western sky at night will probably be overhead the next day.
On the other hand, if the rising sun in the east produces a red sky, it means that the fair weather has passed over us and unsettled weather may move in from the west.
“A ring around the sun or moon,
“Brings rain or snow upon you soon!”
High, thin, ice-crystal clouds, usually the forerunners of unsettled weather, refract light from the sun or the moon in a way that produces a halo effect.
“The moon and the weather may change together,
“But a change of the moon does not change the weather.”
Contrary to what many believe, there’s no connection between the phases of the moon and the weather occurring at the time.
Mother Nature's forecasters:
Insects, plants and animals are particularly sensitive to changes in the weather, and have been the source of countless weather proverbs down through the years. Here are some valid examples:
• Counting the number of cricket chirps in eight seconds and adding four will give the temperature within one degree Celsius.
And along the same lines, the higher the temperature, the faster ants will move. Insects are cold-blooded, so their activity is proportional to the temperature. And like the rest of us, years ago they dutifully switched to metric.
• If a maple tree’s sap runs faster, it’s going to rain.
Before it rains, the atmospheric pressure usually falls. To equalize the pressure, the sap in trees begins to flow.
Some other weather insights from plants, animals and fish:
• Bees stay close to their hives before rain.
• Expect stormy weather when ants travel in lines, and fair weather when they scatter.
• Fish leap before a storm.
• When quail are heard in the evening, expect fair weather the next day.
• “Flies and mosquitoes are biting and humming,
“Swallows fly low, a rainstorm is coming!”
A great many farmers believe in these old weather “saws” that reliably predict the coming of rain.
It’s going to rain when:
• Cows huddle together or lie down in the pasture.
• A pig scratches against a post.
• Horses stand with their tails to the wind or roll over.
• Chickens eat more.
• A cat sits with its back to the fire.
• Geese are flying low.
• Flowers smell sweeter.
• Manure piles smell stronger.
• The rooster crows before going to bed.
Given the number and variety of these sayings, it should be raining almost every day, shouldn’t it?
Many people believe that they can predict the weather with the help of their bodies. For example:
“Aches and pains,
Well, there’s probably truth in this. Some people cite decreasing air pressure, which usually precedes rain, as a cause of body tissues expanding a little, sensitizing nerve cells and thus causing pain.
Remember when your grandfather used to say: “Yup, it’s going to rain. I can feel it in my bones.”
• Ringing in the ears at night indicates a change of wind.
A sudden rapid rise in the barometer, indicating a change of weather, can cause a ringing in the ears.
Frost, dew and wind:
“If there's frost, dew, or morning fog,
“No rain this day will you log!”
On clear, cool and calm nights, ground moisture in the form of frost, dew or fog may form more readily because there aren’t any clouds to interfere with ground cooling. These nights are typical of high pressure weather conditions, meaning that good weather will probably continue for at least another day.
On the other hand, cloudy nights return the heat lost from the ground and dew and frost are not likely to form.
That’s usually true, if it’s spring or fall. The absence of humidity indicates cold air and a drop in temperature.
“When the wind is in the east,
“Tis good for neither man nor beast!”
This is probably true in the northern hemisphere, where storms to the south usually produce an east wind as they move in. I would explain how this works differently in the southern hemisphere, if I could, but I can’t.
So there you have it. A veritable cornucopia of “lore” to fill a conversation the next time you’re discussing everyones’ favourite topic — the weather.
The old line is true: “If it wasn’t for the weather, most of us wouldn’t be able to get a conversation going.”