Common weather lore

The cues of observation forecasting are the sky and the clouds, the direction of the wind, the colors at sunset and sunrise. Think of the common saying, Red sky at night, sailors’ delight, red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors’ delight, is not actually true. Red sky means moisture in the air and approaching rain. However pale red or orange or pink means dust in the air, dry air and weather.

Clouds are great forecasters. I’ve read of them as weathermen of the sky.  Scattered, puffy, white cumulus clouds signal fair weather. Feathery cirrus clouds are also a sign of fair weather. However, masses of cumulus, giant thunderheads signal high winds and often stormy weather, sometimes tornadoes.

Nimbus clouds are gray and vary in darkness. They’re often formless, a solid cover across the sky. They show moisture in the air and presage rain or snow though the sky may be gray for days before it rains. A halo around the moon or the sun isn’t really around either but is in our atmosphere and also signals rain or snow is on the way.

Ever hear someone say, “The air is so clear you can see for miles.  There must be a storm coming.” There’s truth in what they say. During fair weather atmospheric pressure is high, the air is stable and contains dust and other impurities. When a storm approaches the pressure drops, the atmosphere and the view become clear, things appear sharper and we can see farther.

In addition to weather signs in the sky we get signs from birds and mammals and insects, from trees and other plants, from aching bones and other physical maladies. Robins and cardinals and other song birds, apparently reacting to lower air pressure which they can detect but we can’t, become quiet and inactive, perching in sheltered places when the air pressure falls. Coastal fishermen watch gulls and go to sea when the gulls do, stay in when the gulls stay on or near shore.

Cattle and horses often become more active as air pressure goes down. Shortly before fain they move from hill tops to valleys, to sheltered areas. Deer and other wild animals also go to shelter before a rain.

Flying insects go to shelter like the birds before a rain. Crickets chirp faster as the temperature goes up. One cricket, the snowy tree cricket which I wouldn’t recognize if I saw it, is sometimes called the thermometer cricket because the number of times it chirps in 15 seconds plus 39 is supposed to be the precise temperature.

Dandelion blossoms and some other flowers fold up as humidity increases before a rain. All flowers smell more strongly before a rain when the air is clearest of dust and other impurities.

Rheumatism and arthritis, bad teeth, badly healed bones, corns and bunions become painful as humidity increases and air pressure decreases. Haven’t you heard someone say, “Must be going to rain. My rheumatism or arthritis is acting up or my bunions are hurting.”

“Everyone talks about the weather but,” to finish the old saw, “no one ever does anything about it.”

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