Old-Timey weather prediction often proves as reliable, if not more so, than today’s hit-and-miss predictions. Have you ever wondered about the old timers’ weather prediction? Old weather sayings were part science and part old wives’ tales weather sayings. How many of these old-timey weather sayings do you know?
The weather plays an important role in the life of a homesteader. We find ourselves checking the weather forecast frequently. It helps us plan our days and save those inside chores for when it’s nasty outside.
Some things just have to be done no matter what the weather, but knowing what’s ahead can be helpful. I enjoy reading about and utilizing weather sayings from old farmers and old wives tales. Old-fashioned weather sayings hold a lot of truth and are sometimes humorous.
Although they probably didn’t know or understand the real science behind them, they knew they worked. Knowledge and information handed down from generation to generation became lost as we had weather forecasts on our televisions and radios. We even have whole channels dedicated solely to the weather.
Some of the old-timey weather predictions were based on old wives’ tales weather sayings and are often comical, but many of them worked. They could predict the weather with great accuracy. My grandparents were closer than any weatherman I’ve ever listened to.
favorite sayings of Old-Timey Weather Prediction
1. The darker the Woolly Bear caterpillar or its brown stripe, the harsher the weather.
The woolly bear caterpillar will grow, longer, wider black bands when it is going to be a longer, colder winter with more winter precipitation. An all black Woolly Bear would indicate a harsh winter.
When the winter is going to be average or below average, the middle brown band will be wider. So a Woolly Bear with lots of brown or mostly brown would mean an average or milder winter.
It’s said the band that is the widest indicates which part of winter will be the worst.
2. The higher the clouds, the better the weather.
Wispy, thin clouds indicate a spell of nice weather. Don’t confuse chemtrails with these types of clouds.
3. “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.”
Did you know that’s from the Bible? Jesus said, “When it is evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowering.” Matthew 16:2-3
4. Many of the old timers’ weather predictions point to the west as the place to watch for developing conditions.
Jesus also said, “When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.” Luke 12:54-55. So people have long known how to read the weather signs.
A weathercock that swings to the west
Proclaims the weather to be the best.
A weathercock that swings to the east
Proclaims no good for man or beast.
5. Bats flying around in the evening indicates fair weather.
Bats will fly home in a drizzle but because they have fur the rain will soak them which means they will have to work harder to fly. If they’re out flying it’s going to be nice weather.
6. To convert cricket or grasshopper chirps to degrees Fahrenheit, count the number of chirps in 14 seconds then add 40 to get the temperature.
Crickets and grasshoppers chirp faster when the air is warmer and slower when the air is cooler. This method of telling the temperature is very accurate.
7. If there is dew in the grass in the morning, chances are it won’t rain that day.
Because dew forms in clear, dry atmospheric conditions, you can know it won’t rain on the days you find morning dew.
8. Three dewless morns, rain is for sure.
The idea is based on the lack of moisture indicating the clouds are retaining it and so they will soon release it to the Earth.
9. Dew before midnight, next morn will be bright.
Based on the same principle as number 7. The earth has cooled quickly because of dry conditions so you can expect no rain.
10. If you make a fire outside and the smoke goes straight up, you will have good weather. If the smoke curls and wisps away then rain is surely on its way.
Smoke particles absorb moisture in the air and become heavy as they do. The greater the moisture, the more the smoke particles will absorb. When the smoke is so heavy it cannot rise and drift away, you’ll know it’s about to rain.
11. Clear Moon, frost soon.
Cloud cover traps heat at the Earth’s surface. A clear moon means there is no cloud cover so the Earth will cool quickly when the Sun goes down. This means you can expect to wake up to a cool morning and maybe even frost.
12. When clouds appear like towers, the Earth is refreshed by frequent showers.
Tall clouds that look like huge cotton balls are innocent. When they begin to take on a tower shape and turn dark, you can be sure a storm is brewing so you should keep your eye out for foul weather.
13. Rainbow in the morning gives you fair warning.
A rainbow is always an indication of rain. In the morning, it means rain is approaching from the west.
14. Bees a’ swarmin’ in July, Bring little more than dry.
Bees are busy gathering pollen in July as the season change is coming fast for them. They only swarm at this time of year when it is going to be dry for a while.
15. When bees stay close to their hive, rain isn’t far away.
Have you ever seen a rain-soaked bee trying to dry himself so he can fly home? They stay home to avoid this trouble.
16. When ditch and pond offend the nose, look for rain and stormy blows.
Scent molecules have a harder time sticking around when the weather is dry. When the air is high in humidity, smells stay low to the ground and are stronger.
17. Chimney smoke that ascends high means fair weather. Chimney smoke that stays low or ascends and then billows back down indicates storms on the way.
Based on the same principle as number 10. The billowing back down of the smoke indicates a windy pattern preceding a possible storm.
18. The earth and flowers smell strongest just before showers.
Based on the same principle as number 16. Scent molecules have a harder time sticking to surfaces when the weather is dry. When the air is high in humidity, they stay low and tend to smell more powerfully.
19. If birds fly high, no worries from the skies. If birds fly low, foul weather is foretold.
Birds are affected by barometric pressure. If you see them flying high, the barometric pressure is high and the weather is good. If you see them flying low, the barometric pressure is low and the weather is changing for the worse.
20. Cattle gathering in a tight group in a corner or even in a field indicate a storm is approaching quickly.
While there is no scientific proof of this, many farmers swear by it.
21. Ring around the moon, rain or snow soon.
A ring or halo around the moon is caused by light refracting as it passes through ice crystals in the upper atmosphere. As the ice crystals move over the tops of high storm clouds it gives the appearance of a ring around the moon.
22. If spiders are many and spinning their webs, the spell will soon be dry.
Spider webs absorb moisture from the air which causes them to become heavy and break. So they are super sensitive to when it’s going to be moist or wet. They tend to hide and wait for the weather to pass before they build again. So if you see them spinning their webs everywhere, you can know it’s going to be nice weather “said the spider to the fly”.
Well, these aren’t the tip of the iceberg I’m sure. There are so many I don’t know if there’s a book that records them all. I’m often grieved by the knowledge and wisdom we’ve lost from the old-timers.
If you’re still fortunate enough to have an older person in your life, please sit and talk to them, listen to them, and learn from them.
Can you add your own old-timey weather predictions to this short list?