04 February 2014

Old Fashioned Ways to Predict the Weather

I think we can all agree that our weather patterns are changing. The seasons are not what they used to be. Queensland and much of New South Wales are in severe drought, while the southern part of Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria have experienced the oddest of summers, with a mild and gentle start that was followed by one of the most severe heat waves since record keeping began.

And now north Queensland and the Gulf Country are battening down for a cyclone that may just run itself out, or turn around and become a storm to beat all storms.

I'm not very good at predicting the weather here in the city. I was much better at it when we lived in the country and when we're away camping I don't seem to have any trouble at all. Watching the clouds, listening to the birds, noting the winds and even how dry the ground is in the morning are all ways to predict what the weather is going to do. It's easy in the bush.

Predicting the weather has been a talent forever, long before computer programs could plot wind direction and speed and measure water and land temperatures, people have been predicting the weather. They had to. They needed to know when to sow crops and when to start the harvest. They had to know when to bring stock in from the paddocks and when they'd need to put feed and water out for the animals.

Of course a lot of this weather predicting was homespun and became the source of some familiar ditties and sayings, some we still use today.

A common example is "red sky at night, shepherd's delight, red sky at dawning, shepherd take warning". It's one of the first sayings I remember learning and I still take a quick look out the kitchen window to check the sunset each night.

How are you at predicting the weather? Here is a list of 50 old fashioned weather proverbs that might help you become an accurate amateur meteorologist. Most of them apply to the northern hemisphere but they can easily translate to down under. I'm not sure how accurate they are, but they are folksy, interesting and fun to read and give us a glimpse into a simpler, less complicated lifestyle.

1. Hornets’ nest built in the top of trees indicate a mild winter is ahead; nests built close to the ground indicate that a harsh winter is coming.
2. The higher the clouds the better the weather.
3. If the cat washes her face over her ear, the weather is sure to be fine and clear.
4. Clear moon, frost soon.
5. When leaves fall early, autumn and winter will be mild; when leaves fall later, winter will be severe.
6. If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.
7. When ants travel in a straight line expect rain; when they are scattered, expect fair weather.
8. If the first snow falls on unfrozen ground expect a mild winter.
9. If bees stay at home rain will soon come; if they fly away, fine will be the day.
10. A year of snow, a year of plenty.
11. Dust rising in dry weather is a sign of approaching change.
12. Rainbow at noon, more rain soon.
13. Flowers blooming in late autumn are a sign of a bad winter.
14. If cows lie down and refuse to go to pasture, you can expect a storm to blow up soon.
15. The darker the woolly caterpillar’s coat, the more severe the winter will be. If there is a dark stripe at the head and one at the end, the winter will be severe at the beginning, become mild, and then get worse just before spring.
16. When grass is dry at morning light look for rain before the night.
17. If sheep ascend hills and scatter, expect clear weather.
18. A warm November is the sign of a bad winter.
19. When the chairs squeak, it’s of rain they speak.
20. When clouds appear like rocks and towers, the earth will be washed by frequent showers.
21. If birds fly low, then rain we shall know.
22. Evening red and morning grey are two sure signs of one fine day.
23. The first and last frosts are the worst.
24. The winds of the daytime wrestle and fight longer and stronger than those of the night.
25. When down the chimney falls the soot, mud will soon be underfoot.
26. Rain before seven, fine before eleven.
27. No weather is ill, if the wind be still.
28. Cold is the night when the stars shine bright.
29. When a rooster crows at night there will be rain by morning.
30. Dandelion blossoms close before there will be a rain.
31. When clouds look like black smoke a wise man will put on his cloak.
32. A cow with its tail to the West makes the weather best; a cow with its tail to the East makes the weather least.
33. The moon and the weather may change together, but a change of the moon will not change the weather.
34. The sudden storm lasts not three hours.
35. Chimney smoke descends, our nice weather ends.
36. A rainbow in the morning is the shepherd’s warning. A rainbow at night is the shepherd’s delight.
37. Three days rain will empty any sky.
38. When smoke hovers close to the ground there will be a weather change.
39. A ring around the sun or moon means rain or snow coming soon.
40. Bees will not swarm before a storm.
41. The more cloud types present the greater the chance of rain or snow.
42. Catchy drawer and sticky door, coming rain will pour and pour.
43. When the wind blows from the west, fish bite best. When it blows from the east, fish bite least.
44. When leaves show their undersides, be very sure that rain betides.
45. Birds on a telephone wire predict the coming of rain.
46. When the ditch and pond offend the nose, then look out for rain and stormy blows.
47. Pigs gather leaves and straw before a storm.
48. Trout jump high, when a rain is nigh.
49. Red sky at night, shepherd's delight; red sky at dawning, shepherd take warning.
50. When the night goes to bed with a fever, it will awake with a wet head.

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