Saturday, November 1, 2014

Using the Signs to Predict the Weather

Some would call if folklore, I call it observation. Watching the signs will give you a heads up on what the weather will be like.

For as long as there have been enough people to communicate talking about the weather has been on the top of the possible subject list. You know right after the, "I am fine how are you?", portion of the conversation. Everyone has heard "What do you think about this weather?" or "Hot enough for ya?" next time someone asks me that I am seriously considering saying "Well I just saw a camel spontaneously combust." or how about "Cold enough for ya?" and penguins are freezing to death.

For equally as long people have been trying to figure out how to predict the weather, I grew up hearing all about the signs. No I am not talking about the stars and using the farmer's almanac, but that is a good place and I do use it. I am talking about the things that happen all around you. Little ways that nature gives you a heads up.  None of these are scientific, I have not researched all of them, but for the most part they all seem to be very accurate. Some are thousands of years old and some may be only a few generations. I know a lot of people call these old wives' tales, but people used the signs of nature to help them prepare for what was a head, I hope you enjoy.

We are going to cover a variety of these weather predicting signs. Many of these I didn't know. I ask for people to share the ones they had heard on The Rural Economist Facebook page and I will be mentioning several people who shared the ones they heard. This is going to be cool so hang in there.


Water dog, Sun dog, or Sun Devil

Sun dog, water dog, sun devil

This one I actually do know a little of the science behind. A sun dog can be a little piece of a rainbow on one side of the sun, two pieces of a rainbow on opposite sides of the sun, all the way up to a circular rainbow all the way around the sun. This is caused by sunlight shining through moisture, normally ice crystals, in the atmosphere. Old folks always said that when you see a sun dog it will rain in three days. Most of the time it's true.

Circle Around the Moon

Ring around the moon predicts when it will next rain.

A circle or ring around the moon is also caused by ice crystals or moisture in the atmosphere. The number of stars inside the ring is the number of days till rain or bad weather will arrive. Thus far I have found this one to be true every time. Have you ever seen this?

The Position of a Crescent Moon

This sign actually has several meanings. My dad calls is the new crescent and the old crescent. Picture the crescent moon as a bowl, if the bowl is tipped it is pouring the water out. If the crescent moon is flat or tipped up it is holding the water in. My grandfather took the crescent moon's orientation into consideration when it came to planting. I have also heard that the position of a crescent moon has bearing on when livestock deliver babies. When the crescent moon is flat or tipped up it is holding the baby in. For the most part I have found this to be true.

Tree Leaves Turned Upside Down

I wish I had a picture of this one, but sadly I don't. Not long before a big rain comes in several types of trees will turn their leaves upside down. I have seen this one many times and this one I would almost say is always right. I knew about this one, but had forgotten to add it to my list. Special thanks to Genevieve Roesch and Anita Conly for reminding me. I am very glad you are a friend and neighbor of The Rural Economist.


Grace Worth's photo.
When the ants build their mounds high they are preparing for rain. Makes sense. Thanks to Grace Worth for reminding me of this one.

When Winter Will Arrive


Mark down the date of the first night you hear the katydids call. Mark on the same date 3 months later will be the first cool spell. Always right. At least every time I have noticed.

Yellow Butterflies

Here in the southeastern United States these little fellas fly southwest for the winter. When you start seeing them it is only six weeks till your first cold spell. You had better get ready because they are.

When Birds Migrate

This one will depend greatly on the bird you are watching so I cannot place a time frame on it. The one I have noticed is the Hummingbird. If you have fed hummingbirds for a couple of years you will notice that they normally show up and leave fairly consistently even within just a day or two. If they leave early, winter will be early, if they are still around in say late October winter will be later than normal.

Snow or Bad Winter

There are a bunch pertaining to how rough a winter will be. Some of these I knew before and some were contributed by The Rural Economist Facebook friends and neighbors. Some I will talk about and some I will just list. 

Persimmon Seeds

On the inside of the persimmon seed you will see a figure. I could look like a spoon, a fork, or a knife. A spoon means heavy snow (shoveling out), a knife means a bitter winter (high winds and very cold), a fork means a mild winter (plenty to eat). I have done this and seen the utensils, kinda cool but if you open several they may not agree.


There are several that deal with trees predicting bad weather. I agree with these 100%. Why? The trees main job is to produce more trees. There are lots of animals that eat the seeds and/or fruit that comes from trees. When we are going to have a rough winter it has been noticed that trees produce more of their fruits to make sure that some of their seeds make it through to become another tree. Pines producing more pine cones, oaks produce more acorns, and the mountain ash (rowan tree) produces more berries. 

From the time I was old enough to shuck an ear of corn I have heard you can tell how bad the winter was going to be by how thick the shucks are. I don't know how much weight I put in this one because I have seen really thick shucks and really thin sucks come from the same field in the same year, in fact pulled on the same day. I have also heard that if the skins on tomatoes are tough, if the onions are strong and the cabbage leaves are thick it will be a more harsh winter. Thanks to Paulina Vincent, Marlo Pauch-Wilson, Sara Turner, Dara Wilson, and Annemarie Collard.


Animals know nature and by extension can tell what the weather is going to do before people do. Squirrels and hornets will build their nests higher in trees. Squirrels, ground hogs, and even deer will have a feeding frenzy in the fall. If you see a squirrel constantly being busy collecting food and even burying their stored food deeper, look out. 

The horses coats will be thicker (extra hairy). I have seen this one first hand as well. Several years ago when I had horses, one fall I noticed that the horses were getting extra hairy. It didn't matter that they had a stall in the barn and were brushed regularly. That year was tough. Very cold, not much snow, but very cold. Thanks to The Reality Pallet, Heidi Allen, and Christina Kamp.

Weather Predicting Weather

I am just going to list a few here.

Rains in September means snow in February.
The number of foggy mornings in August the number of measurable snows in winter.
Thunder in January, frost in May.
Clear moon, Frost soon.

Here is the only one in this list that I am going to talk about to any length. We know it as 
Red sky in the morning sailors take warning, red sky at night sailors delight

The reason I want to point this one out is because it has been around so long that it was even mentioned in the Bible.
 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. Matthew 16:2 KJV
That is a saying that has been around a very long time.

Thanks to Jennifer Arthur, Mindy Manning , Marti Criswell

Spring and Summer

Several of these we have used and still do. Most of them have to do with animals.

When the turtle dove calls it is time to plant corn.
When you hear the Whippoorwill call it is time to put up your ax, cold weather is over till fall.
When you hear the tree frog call, they are calling for rain.
When you hear the cicadas (dry flies) sing the dog days of summer have begun.
Snail, Snail, show you horns, is the sky clear tomorrow?
If there is a hazy yellow/green tint to the sky look out! Tornadoes or hail storms are in the air.
If you don't hear a lot of song birds in the morning there will be storms that night.
Thanks to Patti Holland, Paulina Vincent, Sietske van Schaik


Sadly I only have one for fall. Mare's tails. When you see the mare's tails the next day will be windy and turning cooler.

I know they are different depending on where you live. Each climate will have different signs, but they all have some. Many are very accurate and some not so much. Do you know of any I left out? I would love to hear them.

All Year Prediction

If you have never heard of it I would like to introduce you to the Amish weather keeping days. I read about this years ago, I tried to look it up online and couldn't find a reference. The 12 days after Christmas will predict the weather for the following year. The 26th will predict January and so on. The catch is you kinda have to know what normal is for that day, but you can get a general feel based on temperatures, wind, precipitation, and the like. I tried it halfheartedly a couple of years in a row. I didn't keep good enough records to tell if my predictions were correct.

I love watching the signs. They give us a heads up on what to expect. I hope you enjoy your
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