Weather lore is an ancient tradition, mostly replaced today with modern, scientific weather forecasting and prediction. While the traditional sayings— “red sky at night, sailor’s delight, red sky in morning, sailor’s warning”—may not always be scientific, there is some truth behind them. And these old tidbits of weather lore may be fading fast from common usage.
What is Weather Lore?
Traditional weather lore is an unusual combination of folklore and nature science. Long before the scientific method and modern meteorology people used sayings, rhymes, and stories to describe weather phenomena and to predict changes in the weather.
Certain signs in nature, like when birds take flight or the shapes of clouds, were used by people to predict the weather. This helped with planning farming and gardening as well as travel and other activities.
Examples of Weather Lore Sayings
The history of weather lore is truly ancient, and it isn’t possible to say exactly when it started. Some of the lore passed down and still with us today could have originated thousands of years ago. Weather lore isn’t dead either; many people still rely on these old sayings, and some of them bear out even in the face of modern science:
- The aforementioned saying about sailors and red skies carries some truth. A sunset that is deep red often comes with high pressure and dry weather. In the morning, a red sky can indicate that the rising sun’s light is refracting through a lot of clouds that could bring changing weather.
- “If there’s a halo around the sun or moon, expect rain quite soon.” This saying, or variations of it, refers to refraction of light around ice crystals in cirrus clouds, often the first type of clouds in a storm front.
- “When bees come out of the hive, it’s a good day to be alive.” The truth of this saying is that bees generally come out when weather is good and head back to the hive when a storm is approaching. The same could be said for birds, squirrels, and other wildlife.
- “Cold night, stars bright.” It is often true that a clear night sky is chillier. Clouds blanket the atmosphere and hold in warmth. When stars are bright, clouds are non-existent and the air is likely to be colder.
- “In the morning mountains, in the afternoon fountains.” As clouds build in the morning, they often lead to rain in the afternoon.