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International Weather Wisdom

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People are always talking about the weather. It is a source of small talk in a group of strangers. We often turn on the television or radio for the sole purpose of finding out the weather forecast.

And yet oddly enough, no one ever seems satisfied with the weather - it's either too hot, too cold, too rainy or too sunny. Rarely will you hear someone say that it is a beautiful day unless it is to bemoan the fact that it's a beautiful day and they are forced to work inside.

Whether the weather be fine
Whether the weather be not
We must weather the weather
Whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not.

Every culture has expressions like this about the weather. Below you will find further examples of various bits of 'weather wisdom' from around the globe. These might be old wives' tales, true weather predictors, or silly weather-related folk tales and proverbs.

But one expression that best sums it all up:

He that is weather wise
Is seldom other wise.

A Storm is Coming when...

  • Flowers close up before a storm.

  • When the leaves of trees turn over, windy conditions and possible severe weather won't be far behind.

  • Before a storm, cows will lie down or refuse to go out to pasture. But, when cows are lying down in a field it'll remain fine, once they stand up rain is on its way.

  • The daisy shuts its eye before rain.

  • Cockerels and male mistlethrushes sing when a thunderstorm approaches.

  • Flowers smell best just before a rain.

  • Killing a spider will make it rain the next day.

  • Swallows fly high when winds are light. So when they start flying low, the storm's a-coming!

  • When you see that the ants are excited and coming out at unusual hours to do their work, it means that it is going to rain.

  • Rain on St Swithins day (15 July) means rain for 40 days.

  • Rain before seven, fine for eleven.

  • Snow is due when the cat washes behind both ears.

It Will Be a Bad Winter:

  • If squirrels accumulate huge stores of nuts and have thick bushy tails.

  • If there are lots of berries on trees.

  • If the black stripe is wider than the brown stripes on the back of a Woolly Bear caterpillar, the winter will be long and harsh.

  • If ant hills are high in July, winter will be snowy.

  • According to farmers in Ohio, the higher a hornet's nest is from the ground, then the more snowfall is to be expected in the coming winter.

  • If the first week in August is unusually warm, the coming winter will be snowy and long.

  • For every fog in August, there will be a snowfall in winter.

  • A warm October means a cold February.

  • A warm November is the sign of a bad winter.

  • If the first snow falls on unfrozen ground, expect a mild winter.

  • The nearer the New Moon to Christmas Day, the harder the winter.

  • The first frost in autumn will be exactly six months after the first thunderstorm of the spring.

  • Worms plug the entrances to their holes when it gets cold.

Proverbs

Here are a few good proverbs that deal with weather prediction:

  • April showers bring May flowers.

  • When the chairs squeak, it's of rain they speak.

  • When dew is on the grass, rain will never come to pass.

  • Red sky at night is a sailor's delight. Red sky in morning - sailor take warning. Apparently this is an American proverb with the European version substituting 'shepherd' for 'sailor'.

  • If you live in Wales and you build dry stone walls, the rainy weather always appalls.

  • When a halo rings the Moon or Sun, rain's approaching on the run.

  • Rainbow to windward foul fall the day. Rainbow to leeward, rain runs away.

  • If the day starts cloudy, once there is a patch of clear blue sky big enough to make a sailor a pair of trousers, the weather will improve.

  • If you can see Howth Head from Dublin, it's going to rain. If you can't, it is raining1.

  • St Swithins day if it dost rain, for 40 days 'twill remain. St Swithins day if thou be fair, for 40 days 'twill rain nae more.

  • Oak before Ash, in for a splash. Ash before Oak, in for a soak2.

  • If St Paul's day (29 June) be fair and clear, it does betide a happy year. But if it chance to snow or rain, then will be dear all kinds of grain. If clouds or mists do dark the sky, great store of birds and beasts shall die. And if the winds do file aloft, then war shall vex the kingdom oft.

  • If Candlemas day (2 February) be dry and fair, the half o' winters to come and mair. If Candlemas day be wet and foul, the half o' winter's gane at Yule.

  • When the rooster crows on the heap of dung the weather will change or stay as it is3.

  • Aiming a raspberry at the sky will lead to crop failure.

General Weather 'Wisdom'

  • 'Ne're cast a clout 'till May be out' - meaning you shouldn't shed your winter clothing till June4.

  • A green Christmas means a full churchyard - meaning that colds, pneumonia, etc are all worse in warm winters.

  • If you sneeze three times within a few seconds, the next day will be sunny.

  • According to the Pennsylvania Dutch, when a woman sleeps with her foot outside the covers, cold weather is over.

Using a Cricket as a Thermometer

In the evening when crickets are in the cool grass, count the number of chirps they make in 14 seconds and that will be the Fahrenheit temperature in their location (the temperature may be different where you are standing).

Using a Pine Cone to Measure Humidity

Put a pine cone outside where you can observe it from time to time. It will change when the humidity increases because it closes up in moist weather to protect the seeds.

Using Seaweed to Measure Humidity

Certain types of seaweed can be used to measure the humidity. In the UK there is a type called lace seaweed5, a single, long strand of seaweed, looking a lot like a bootlace. Hang this up in a sheltered area and as the humidity rises the seaweed becomes damp, slimey and pliant, as humidity drops it becomes hard and brittle.

Groundhog Day

Every year the residents of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania hold a special celebration on Groundhog Day, which is, again, 2 February. On that day, if the resident groundhog Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his hole on Gobblers Knob and sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.

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1This proverb is popular in a number of cultures and always deals with a popular local landmark.2This means if the oak leaves are out before ash leaves in the spring, then it will be a dry summer, and vice versa.3Or in the traditional German - Wenn der Hahn kräht auf dem Mist, ändert sich's Wetter oder bleibt wie es ist.4Though in the UK there is an alternative meaning. The hawthorn blossoms are called May, so it may also mean wait until the hawthorn is flowering before expecting the end of winter....5At least that is what one Researcher's mother called it.

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