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Interesting Weather Proverbs and Trivia

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N3UJJ Weather Station in Lothian, Maryland, 20711

Serving Boones Estates, Waysons Corner, Lothian MD
Chesapeake Bay and Maryland C
ommunities for over 5 Years

The N3UJJ Weather Station located in Lothian Maryland provides Live Real Time Weather as well as well as Live Real Time Weather Radar, Storm Tracking and Weather Satellite Imagery. This Station also provides feeds to the National Weather Service, NOAA, MADIS (Meteorological Assimilation Data Ingest System) and MesoWest.


First the Proverbs

Red Sky at night,
Sailor's delight. 

Red sky in the morning,
Sailors take warning.

This one has been around a long time.
"When the western sky is especially clear, there is often a red sunset. That's because as the sun sets, its light shines through much more of the lower atmosphere, which contains dust, salt, smoke and pollution. These particles scatter away some of the shorter wavelengths of light, leaving only the longer wavelengths If an area of high air pressure is present, the air sinks. This sinking air holds air contaminants near the earth, making the sunset even redder than usual. This would be the "red sky at night." In the middle latitudes of the northern hemisphere, weather systems most often approach from the west. Since high pressure generally brings fair weather, this type of red sky at sunset would indicate that clear weather is approaching, which would "delight" a sailor. If the sky is red in the eastern morning sky for the same reasons as above, then the high pressure region has most likely already passed from west to the east, and an area of low pressure may follow. Low pressure usually brings clouds, rain or storms, a warning for sailors.

Rainbow at night,
sailors' delight.
Rainbow in morning,
sailors' warning.
The observation may be taken to heart by us landlubbers as well as by sailors. Rainbows, as we know, are formed against the clouds opposite the sun. If we see one in the late afternoon it must be in the east, where clouds still hang while in the west the sun shines. Since our storms move from west to east, the rainbow seen in the afternoon points to the passing on of the storm and clearing to the westward. On the other hand, a rainbow in the morning must be in our western sky, where clouds are approaching, and consequently means that rain may be heading toward us.
Mare's tails and mackerel scales
Make tall ships take in their sails.
A mackerel sky refers to cirrocumulus clouds, which often precede an approaching warm front, which will eventually bring veering winds (changing from northeast and east over to southwest and west) and precipitation.
Clear moon, frost soon. If the atmosphere is clear, the surface of the earth will cool rapidly as heat is radiated away at night. There is no "blanket" of clouds to keep the heat that the ground absorbed during the day from radiating back up into space.  If the temperature is low enough on these clear nights and there's no wind, frost may form.
A year of snow, a year of plenty. A continuous covering of snow on farmland and orchards delays the blossoming of fruit trees until the season of killing frosts is over. It also prevents the alternate thawing and freezing which destroys wheat and other winter grains.
Halo (or ring) around the sun or moon,
rain or snow soon.
The halo around the sun or moon is a layer of cirrus clouds made of ice crystals. These ice crystals act as tiny prisms, forming a white or sometimes colorful halo around the sun or moon.  This cirrostratus cloud often indicates an approaching warm front and an associated area of low pressure. Rain or snow will not always follow, but there is a higher probability of it after a halo is seen, and the brighter the circle, the greater the probability.
Rainbow in the morning gives you fair warning. In the morning, when the sun is in the east, the shower and its rainbow are in the west. As the weather in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere moves mostly from west to east, the morning rainbow indicates that rain is moving from the west toward the observer.
When the dew is on the grass,
rain will never come to pass.
When grass is dry at morning light,
look for rain before the night.

As it turns out, the formation of dew is linked to the amount of cloudiness in the sky at night.
On a clear night the ground cools, radiating its heat away into space. When the ground gets cool enough, dew forms, like beads of condensation on a can of cold soda.
If the sky is cloudy at night, however, the Earth's surface doesn't cool as much. Some of the heat radiates into space, but much of it bounces off the cloud layer and goes back into the ground. If there are lots of clouds, the ground won't get cool enough to form dew. The saying works because, chances are, all those nighttime clouds might also cause a rainstorm during the coming day.

Rain before seven,
Fine before eleven
If it's raining before seven, more than likely it has been raining the greater part of the night and the storm is about over. In the hours between seven and eleven, the sun gets in it's effective heating which begins to dissipate the clouds, and as the sun rises high in the heavens toward noon it's chances of success in breaking up the entire cloud covering are highly favorable.
When the wind backs,
and the weather glass falls,
Then be on your guard against
gales and squalls.
A steady, persistent fall in atmospheric pressure is often a good indication of stormy weather to come as an area of low pressure approaches. The likelihood of stormy conditions increases when the wind shifts from the west counterclockwise to an easterly component (northeast or southeast). Such a shift is known as backing.
Beware the bolts from north or west
In south or east the bolts be best.
This expresses a similar observation based on thunderstorm location. Thunderstorms generally move from the north and west, particularly when associated with fronts. Thus, lightning seen in the north or west have a high probability of passing over the observer. However, lightning seen in the south and east indicates those storms have passed or will not pass the observation point.
When the stars begin to huddle,
The earth will soon become a puddle.
When clouds increase, whole areas of stars may be hidden by clouds with groups of stars, still in the clear sky, seem to huddle together. The clouds are increasing, so the chance of rain is increasing too.
A cow with its tail to the East
makes the weather least,
A cow with its tail to the West
makes the weather best.
The explanation here again employs the classic storm model. Cattle instinctively prefer to graze with their tails into the wind so that the wind can bring the scent of a predator to them (they can see ahead if a predator lurks there). East winds usually signify the coming of a storm system. West winds dominate after its passage and clear weather usually follows. Admittedly, the rhyme is poor and the wording vague in this one, but the concept is there.
More clues from nature?  
  Falling pressure may affect the digestive system of cows, making them less willing to go to pasture, causing them to lie down.
Static electricity (from reduced humidity) may increase the grooming activities of cats.
The calls of some birds, including crows and geese, have been known to be more frequent with falling pressure.
Deer and elk sometimes react to wind and air pressure by coming down from mountains and seeking shelter.
Some species from rabbits to rattlesnakes to certain kinds of fish may feed more before a storm so they can seek shelter.
Some flowers close up as the humidity rises so rain doesn't wash away their pollen.
The leaves of some trees curl just before a storm.
The higher the humidity, the better sound travels.
Some English people gauged the chances of rain by the clarity with which they heard church bells sound.
A drop in barometric pressure often affects people with joint diseases, bad teeth, recently healed broken bones, or corns and bunions, bringing pain or pressure to those areas of the body.
Cicadas can't vibrate their wings when the humidity is very high, so may be silent when rain is approaching.
Flying insects are more active when the air pressure drops and stay closer to the ground, so they seem to be swarming before a rain storm.
Swallows flying low may indicate the air pressure is dropping.
The chirping of a cricket has been shown to provide a close indication of air temperature. By counting the number of cricket chirps in a 15-second period and adding 37, the total will equal the air temperature to within one degree 75% of the time.

And Now The Trivia

The Earth sees about 760 thunderstorms every hour
Temperatures have been cooling since 2002, even as carbon dioxide has continued to rise
The winter of 1932 in the US was so cold that Niagara falls froze completely solid!
The speed of a typical raindrop is 17 miles per hour
Snowiest city in the U.S. is Blue Canyon, California.
Rain contains vitamin B12
Moist air holds heat better than dry air
In ten minutes, a hurricane releases more energy than all the world's nuclear weapons combined
During a hurricane, 90% of the people who die end up dying from drowning
The fastest speed a falling raindrop can hit you is 18mph
A corn field of one acre gives of 4,000 gallons off water per day in evaporation
Snowflakes falling at 2-4 mph can take about 1 hr to reach the ground
For each minute of the day, 1 billion tons of rain falls on the Earth
At any given time, on average there are about 1800 thunderstorms occurring on earth with 100 lightning strikes per second
Contrary to popular belief, lightning travels from the ground upwards not from the sky downwards
A lightning bolt travels at about 14,000mph and transfers 300,000 volts of electricity between the earth and the ground
Lightning bolts can travel 60 miles
9 out of 10 lightning strike victims survive
The air located around a lightning bolt is heated to around 30,000 degrees Celsius. This is 5 times hotter than the surface of the sun
Lightning sets about 10,000 forest fires every year in the United States
The largest hailstone ever recorded in the United States was nearly the size of a soccer ball. It was a 7-inch wide chunk of ice
In 1899, it was so cold that the Mississippi River froze over its entire length
The United States uses an estimated 10 million tons of salt each year to melt ice on the roads
A cubic mile of ordinary fog contains less than a gallon of water
An inch of rain water is equivalent to 15 inches of dry, powdery snow
The average width of a tornado's funnel averages about 100 to 200 yards but may be as wide as a mile

Weather proverbs may not work

The following on Weather Proverbs by R.E. Spencer, formerly of the National Weather Service, first appeared in the December 27, 1954 issue of the "Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin."

If you're trying to make your own forecasts, weather proverbs will not generally be applicable. Only those which are found to be based upon scientific fact and principles are worth considering.

Proverbs pertaining to the condition of the atmosphere, the appearance of the sky, the character and movements of the clouds, and the direction and force of the winds are, for the most part, all that are worth testing out for any particular locality.

Proverbs pertaining to the actions of birds and animals are of little value. Changes in the atmospheric conditions may be responsible for their peculiar actions, but they are affected by the weather which is taking place and not by weather to come.

Sayings pertaining to forecasts for coming seasons are entirely without foundation. For example, peculiar growths and developments in vegetation are the results of weather conditions that have passed and have no connection with those to come. The character of the muskrat's house or the beaver's dam is the direct result of the stage of the water at the time the structure was made.

Everything savoring of astrology, or the mysterious in general, should be entirely rejected.

The trouble with weather proverbs is not so much that they're all wrong, but that they're not all right for all times in all places.

Some of the ones we hear in New England originated thousands of years ago in northern Africa near the Mediterranean Sea where they could be heard and repeated and at last recorded by the writers of the Old Testament.

And many a farmer in the Middle West, depending on a sure-fire weather saying his grandfather brought from Germany or Sweden, has found it useless in the United States.

But distances far shorter than either of these are enough to ruin some weather proverbs - for instance, those that predict rain from the direction of the wind. When the wind blows up the side of a mountain it is cooled and loses its moisture in the form of rain; so that a west wind blowing up the west side of a mountain would produce the same result - a fall of rain - as an east wind blowing up the east side of the same mountain.

What this adds up to is that a distance just great enough to hold a good-sized mountain might also be great enough to ruin a proverb about west (or east) winds bringing rain; and people living in Denver should be cautious about wind-and-rain signs that work well for their neighbors over the mountains in Grand Junction, and vice versa.

Here are a few, by authors of obvious standing, that were no doubt written in different places.

  • "Fair weather cometh out of the north."--Job
  • "The north wind bringeth forth rain."--Proverbs
  • "Take care not to sow in a north wind or to graft and inoculate when the wind is in the South."--Pliny
  • "The north wind is best for sowing seed, the south for grafting." --Worledge, 1669

Another point worth noticing about the importance of locality is that on our Pacific Coast the moisture-bearing winds blow in from the west and southwest, while in the East they come from over the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.

The two following, then, should not be considered too seriously in the East. "A western wind carrieth water in his hand"; "When the east wind toucheth it, it shall wither."

On the other hand the one following would have few takers on the west slopes of the Cascade Mountains and the Sierras, where rain and snow are very frequent companions of west and southwest winds: "When the wind is in the west the weather is always best."

Also, the south wind, about which it is said "The south wind warms the aged" and "The south wind is the father of the poor," are about the wettest, stormiest, and generally least pleasant of winds in our states bordering the Gulf of Mexico.

The proverb writers, including Shakespeare himself, are noticeably consistent in pointing this out - "The southern wind doth play the trumpet to his purposes, and by his hollow whistling in the leaves foretells a tempest and blustering sky." "If feet swell, the change will be to the south, and the same thing is a sign of a hurricane."

"When the wind's in the south, the rain's in its mouth." Anybody who has ever looked at a collection of these sayings must have been impressed by their variety. They are extremely ancient--about as old as language itself; they illustrate as well as anything could illustrate the importance of human affairs; they demonstrate very clearly man's hopeful opinion that experience is a good teacher; their literary merit ranges from excellent to unspeakable; and their range of subject includes everything from apple trees to zymology.

Also, like politics, which we are told make strange bedfellows, they produce some very striking relationships--wolves and crops, sky colors with foul results, holy days and unholy weather; and rain is foretold by the behavior of cats and dogs and cattle, red hair and ropes, spiders and smoke, crickets, frogs, birds, mice, flies, rheumatism, etc., etc.

Squirrel stores and their thickness of their fur make prophesies of hard winters. The drought or wetness of summers is predicted by the weather in March; what happens on Christmas foretells what will happen on Easter; light or heavy fogs in October foretell light or heavy snows in the coming winter; and one proverb says, "If the spring is cold and wet, then the autumn will hot and dry," another, "A wet fall indicates a cold and early winter," and still another (this one from Holland), "A cow year is a sad year and a bull year is a glad year."

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Page last updated: October 10, 2013 10:49
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