There’s a lot of truth in many sayings about the weather

Ones that predict what’s going to happen in the next little while 
make a lot of sense, but long-term predictions are pretty iffy

Reading Time: 3 minutes

There are a number of different weather sayings, and weather folklore, that have their base in sound weather principles.

For example, one of the most well-known sayings is, “Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.”

This saying works pretty well and makes sense if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, north of the tropics. In this region, the prevailing winds in the upper atmosphere are from the west, which generally drives weather systems from west to east. To get a red sunrise or sunset you need to have a large number of particles in the air for the sunlight to bounce off of, causing us to see more of the red light.

These particles can either be dust from different sources or water droplets. At sunset, for us to see the sun and a red sky, the sky along the horizon must be clear or clearing and there needs to be moisture in the air between us and the horizon. Since the sun is setting in the west and weather systems tend to move from west to east, this would mean that the clearing taking place near the horizon should be moving in our direction, hopefully leading to a nice sunny day tomorrow — thus the delight.

The opposite is true for a red sky in morning. To see a red sky, it means that again the horizon is clear, but moisture is between us and the horizon. Since the sun rises in the east and weather systems generally move from west to east, then that moisture must be moving into our region, and thus the need to take warning.

Another popular saying or bit of weather lore that most people have heard around the Prairies is, “If there is a halo around the moon, then rain will come soon.” While this might not always be true, there is good sound weather logic behind it. For a halo to appear around the moon, there needs to be high cirrus clouds, which are made up of ice crystals. These high clouds of ice crystals can refract moonlight, allowing us to see a halo of light around the moon. Often when an area of low pressure or a storm system is approaching, it is preceded by these high cirrus clouds, so the saying make sense.

I know there are several others and I would love to take a look at them all. Some of these sayings and lore apply to our part of the world and some don’t. In fact, I am sure there are sayings and lore out there that are fairly local to any area of the Prairies. If you have a favourite weather saying or lore that you would like me to explore or simply just share, feel free to email me at [email protected] (Just put the phrase ‘weather saying’ or ‘weather lore’ in the subject line.)

Along with weather sayings and lore that make good weather sense, there’s one that to me, makes no sense at all. This one in particular has been shared with me several times in the past by different farmers across the Prairies and this same piece of weather lore was recently published by the Old Farmer’s Almanac. This piece of weather lore states; “Like snow? Count the number of August fogs.”

At first glance I thought it said “frogs” and I immediately thought, “What the heck?” But then I remembered the few emails I had received over the years about this and how certain the emailers had been about the truth of this saying.

When you look at most of the weather lore out there, it usually covers short-term weather. This one is one of the long-term predictions and I find that the longer the time period between observation and result, the more our minds tend to make things work out the way we want them to. When I began to think about this one, I’ll have to admit I quickly shrugged it off as a big pile of you-know-what. For example, valley regions tend to get a lot more fog than hilltops, so I guess these valley regions will be getting a heck of a lot more snow than the hilltops — and that doesn’t make sense.

To me, there are just too many geographical and local influences that impact fog formation for this to hold any real weather truth. If we were only to look at August fog events that impact a large geographical area, then you might be able to make some kind of link between August fog and winter snow. Certain weather patterns can lead to more fog formation and these general patterns could either continue into the fall and winter or lead to a different weather pattern that may or may not be a snowy pattern in winter. I don’t know, I just can’t see how this one could work out or how you could accurately track it.

Again, if you have some insight into this or other weather sayings or lore, please let me know.

About the author

AF Contributor

Daniel Bezte

Daniel Bezte is a teacher by profession with a BA (Hon.) in geography, specializing in climatology, from the University of Winnipeg. He operates a computerized weather station near Birds Hill Park, Manitoba.

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