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Weather Lore

Plants             Animals             Humans             Add your own

 

History... As we have just discovered, meteorologists now use lots of complicated equipment, such as satellites, to forecast the weather. However, people have always been interested in the weather, particularly farmers, sailors and others whose livelihood depended on it. So before this equipment was available people used all the things around them as a guide. As well as looking at the skies, they also used the behaviour of animals, birds and plants as clues to future weather patterns.
Old wives tales?...  

Nowadays, people still disagree as to whether this weather lore is simply superstition and old wives’ tales, or whether it can in fact help in predicting the weather. It is undeniable though that some very small changes affect plants and animals more than they affect us, so you will have to form you own opinion once you have read some of the examples given below.

Plants...  

Weather cones

One of the most reliable of all natural weather indicators are pine cones. pine conesThese have traditionally been used to forecast the weather as they change shape according to whether it is wet or dry. In dry weather, pine cones open out as the scales shrivel up and stand out stiffly. When it is damp, they absorb moisture and as the scales become flexible again, the cone returns to its normal shape.

 

Spring is here

There are a number of natural signs that are supposed to indicate the end of winter and the coming of spring. One of these is the first blooming of the horse chestnut tree.

 

Soak or splash?

Trees are also involved in longer-term weather predictions. According to an old English saying:

"If the oak flowers before the ash, we shall have a splash. If the ash flowers before the oak, we shall have a soak".Oak tree and ash tree

This expression refers to weather for the next few days or weeks and indicates in turn only light rain, or very wet weather depending on which tree flowers first.

 

Flower powerscarlet pimpernel

There are a number of flowers that you should look for if you want to know what the weather will be like. One of these is the Scarlet Pimpernel, which has been called the "poor man’s weather glass". This is because its flowers open in sunny weather, but close tightly when rain is expected.

morning gloryThe petals of the Morning Glory act in a similar way – with wide open blooms indicating fine weather and shut petals predicting rain and bad weather. This opening and closing also occurs with the South African magic carpet flower.top of page

 

Seaweed

In coastal areas, seaweed is often used as a natural weather forecaster. Kelp, for example, shrivels and feels dry in fine weather, but swells and becomes damp if rain is in the air.


Animals... As well as plants, animals are also frequently used in age-old weather predictions.
Lying cows

This is one of the most well known natural weather indicators. Do you already lying cowknow it? It is said that when cows are lying down in a field, rain is on its way. This is explained by the fact that the cows sense the moisture in the air and are making sure they have somewhere dry to lie down. Next time you see cows in a field see if they are lying down or standing up. Are their predictions right or wrong?

 

Groundhog Daygroundhog

In the USA, a groundhog is used to predict the weather for up to six weeks in advance. If you see a groundhog’s shadow at noon on the 2nd of February (Groundhog Day), then the weather will be cold and wintry for another six weeks.

 

Squirrel’s tails

In a similar way, squirrels are often used to forecast the weather over the coming winter. If their tail is very bushy or they are collecting big stores of nuts in autumn, then a severe winter should be expected. However, little scientific evidence has been found to support this.

 

Woolly warningwool

As is true with human hair, wool is also very responsive to the amount of moisture in the air. When the air is dry, hair shrinks and curls up, whereas if the air is moist (indicating rain), it swells and straightens out.

Humans... top of page

Aches, pain and rain

Humans have also been known to predict forthcoming changes in the weather. The weather can affect the way we feel and when damp, cold weather is expected, some people experience aches and pains. Others feel strange when it is about the thunder, and our household pets can often sense storms before we are aware of them. Have you noticed your cat or dog change its behaviour or become restless before you hear thunder?

Add your own...

Are there any other natural weather indicators that you know of?   If so, use the Add your own... form to send us any additional ones that have not already been mentioned.  Your contributions will be sent to cloudsrus.com and any new weather indicators added to the list.  So make sure you check regularly to see if yours has been included - then you can show all your friends!

These traditional methods for understanding and predicting the weather are also linked to weather sayings.  I'm sure you all know some expressions that are related to the weather.  Can you think of any?  How about "Red sky at night, shepherds delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning"? 

If you know any others, then you can add them to the form on the Activities page as well.  New sayings will also appear on the site, so keep checking!

 

We have now finished our look at weather forecasting and some of the old and new techniques used to predict the weather.  It is now time to learn about some actual weather features, starting with those that power the world's weather systems.  Click on the sunshine icon below to move on to this section. 
Alternatively you can have a look at some of the Activities related to weather forecasting (for example rebuilding a weather map), or return to the Weather Features page to select a different topic.

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