Thursday, April 3, 2014

Folklore Forecasts of the Weather

Red sky at morning,  sailor take warning...
In an era when there was no NOWA to alert us to the approach of severe weather, no constant weather channel to share weather conditions across the nation, and no television weatherman (or woman) to artfully point to temperatures and predictions on a local weather map, people relied on almanacs and folklore to predict the weather.  Isaac Werner's journal contains his observations and predictions about the weather, and every daily entry included the temperature, moisture, and wind conditions.  

My father often mentioned weather sayings, paying particular attention to the evening sky to predict the coming weather.  I believe observing a ring around the moon as a prediction of bad weather was one of his comments.  There is some scientific basis for that bit of folklore, since the ring is caused by a refraction of reflected sunlight from the moon onto ice crystals in the upper atmosphere.  Thin cirrus clouds normally precede a warm front by 1 or 2 days, and a warm front is often associated with a storm.  Some people believe the number of stars inside the ring indicate the number of days until the bad weather.

Nearly all of us know the saying, "If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb."  Given the recent severe cold across the nation, surely most of us are hoping for the appearance of a lamb that doesn't disappear during the following days!  Another familiar quote to many of us is "Red sky at Morning, sailor take warning; red sky at night, a sailor's delight."  One prediction utilized by my father was "Rain before seven, fine before eleven," although I don't think he used the rhyme.  If you would enjoy reading more examples of weather folklore, you may want to visit  

...Red sky at night, a sailor's delight!
Having been raised in a farming community, I could certainly identify with what Kim Hubbard had to say:  "Don't knock the weather.  If it didn't change once in a while, nine out of ten people couldn't start a conversation."  Farm families depend on suitable weather for their growing crops, and although merchants and service providers in agricultural communities should also realize the significance of weather conditions to their customers and clients, apparently not everyone does.  I was shocked by a woman dashing into Wal-Mart one day, complaining loudly to everyone within earshot about the rain spoiling her hair.  Those of us with crops desperate for rain after a lengthy dry spell weren't too sympathetic about her spoiled hair-do!  As Benjamin Franklin observed, "Some are weatherwise, some are otherwise."

A later blog will share Isaac Werner's methods for predicting the weather!

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