Weather Lore

Many American students know that the groundhog is supposed to predict when winter will end as he looks for his shadow on Groundhog Day in early February. Groundhog day is folk lore. There is a lot of folk lore about predicting the weather. How much of it is useful? How many sayings give helpful hints about the weather coming up soon?

The first problem is to figure out what the folk lore saying means. For example, one bit of weather lore says, "Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky at morning, sailor take warning." It means that if the evening's sunset is colorful, it is not likely to storm soon. If the sunrise is colorful, a storm is likely that day.

Another bit of weather lore refers to different types of clouds that signal coming rain when it says, "Mare's tails; storms and gales. Mackerel sky; not 24 hours dry."

The next question is, does the saying work? Do storms come after a colorful sunrise more often than after a colorful sunset? Does it often rain after mare's tails and mackerel skies? There is only one way to find out, keep records. Keep a record of sunrises and sunsets, what they look like and what kind of weather happens in the next 12 hours. Keep a record of the weather that follows mare's tails. Does it usually rain soon? How many colorful sunrises and sunsets do you think you need to look at before you decide about the folk lore saying? How many days with mare's tails do you need to observe?

Go to one of the links listed on this page and read some other weather lore sayings. Choose one or two that you can investigate. Figure out what each one means. Every time you observe the weather sign mentioned, write down the weather conditions that follow. Is the folk lore saying usually right?

There is one more advanced step, if a saying seems to be usually right. Can you figure out why it works? What information about the atmosphere are you really observing? For some examples, visit Nick Walker's website on Weather Proverbs.
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