Using Nature To Predict The Weather

Punxutawney Phil is the most famous groundhog in the world. Every February 2, Phil emerges from his hole. If the the day is overcast Phil crawls back into his hole and we will have an early spring. If the sun is out and he sees his shadow we will have six more weeks of winter. It is a fun ritual that we follow every year. We can learn a lot by paying attention to plants and
animals. We can predict the weather, foresee natural disasters, and find the severity of the seasons.

Today we rely on instruments like thermometers, barometers, and radar to show what weather is or will be. Seismographs report movements that could either predict or measure earthquakes. These and other tools are used by scientists and specialists to tell us what to expect with respect to the weather. But these machines and experts are only measuring nature and natural occurrences. How did people know what the weather would be before we had instruments?

From the earliest of times man looked to the skies. Certain clouds give a clue to the weather. Clouds and their movements can indicate what to expect. Layers of clouds that move in different directions are a good sign that there will be bad weather.  Mammatus clouds are formed by sinking air and let us know that severe storms could be coming. Mare's tails (cirrus clouds) and mackeral scales (altocumulus) mean rain within three days. If you see them both on the same day there will be rain within a day. Sailors shortened or unfurled the sails at the sight of these clouds. Cumulus towers mean rain later in the day and nimbostratus clouds are those menacing clouds that tells us to get out of the rain as soon as possible. Cloud cover at night in the winter traps heat to make a slightly warmer day tomorrow. By the same token if there is no cloud cover at night there will be a heavier frost the following day.

Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning; red sky at night, sailor's delight. One of many rhymes to help remember weather trends. If you see a rainbow in the west in the morning rain is on the way. A rainbow in the evening that is in the east means rain has moved past and you can expect a sunny day tomorrow.

Here I must let you know that many of these indicators might be reversed depending on the part of the world you live in. Get to know what happens in your part of the world and observe accordingly.

A circle, halo, or ring around the moon is caused by clouds. Look for rain to follow. A halo around the sun can mean the same. If fog comes in from the ocean it will bring good weather. Coming from the land side fog brings rain.. Rising fog means good weather while settling fog indicates rain. If the stars appear to be twinkling a bit more rain is on the way.

Wind can show what the weather will be. Sailors used to rely heavily on wind patterns as shown in the following rhyme.
When the wind is blowing in the North
No fisherman should set forth,
When the wind is blowing in the East,
'Tis not fit for man nor beast,
When the wind is blowing in the South
It brings the food over the fish's mouth,
When the wind is blowing in the West,
That is when the fishing's best!
Farmers and other occupations also pay attention to the wind when making decisions about the best time to do what needs to be done. Absence of wind means that fair weather will continue.

A damp stone wall denotes rain. Campers will notice that in good weather the smoke from the fire rises straight up. If it curls or falls downward rain is on the way. No dew in the morning means rain that day.

When there is high humidity wood will swell sometimes making doors stick a bit. Salt will clump in the shaker.

Step outside and take a deep breath. You can smell rain in the air. You can also smell hot dry weather. Swamps smell terrible before rain due to the gases they emit at that time. Sounds are louder before a storm and they carry farther.

You will often hear people say that they can feel weather coming. Healed bones often cause pain before a storm. Bunions and corns also predict weather changes. High humidity in the air causes some people to have frizzy hair. Arthritis lets you know rain is on the way. Even cavities in teeth are sensitive to wet weather.

Keep an eye on plants for weather predictions. Flowers smell better before rain. Pine trees have a sharper smell as well.

Morning glories don't open their petals in the morning if it is going to rain. 4'O'clocks are the same. Other flowers,including dandelions, tulips, chickweed, wild indigo, and clovers, will close their blossoms before rain. Rainstar which is a fungus opens up before rain and closes in dry weather as does the scarlet pimpernel.

Mushrooms flourish in wet weather. Seaweed, algae, and moss all like wet weather. Pond weeds will sink before it rains.

Much like hair on people the leaves on maple and oak trees will curl up in high humidity. Many trees will flip their leaves before rain. Pinecones are one of the best indicators of rain. When the weather is dry the cones open more and more. When rain is coming they absorb moisture from the air and become tightly closed.

Rhododendrons can measure temperature. At 20 degrees the leaves are closed but unfurl as it gets warmer. They are completely open at 60 degrees.

Skunk cabbage that has grown to be unusually tall means an early and hard winter. Another harbinger of weather future is "If the oak flowers before the ash, we shall have a splash. If the ash flowers before the oak, we shall have a soak".  This is only good for a few days or weeks.

In west Africa the Griffonia tree has two inch pods that break open with a loud pop to let the farmers know when it is time to plant crops. The trichilia tree blooms twice a year. Both times indicate that the weather is right for planting corn. When the coral tree flowers it is time to plant the yams in the Fiji islands.

Thicker than usual corn husks foretell a hard winter. An abnormally large crop of acorns mean a hard winter too.

An interesting predictor of the weather is the persimmon. Cutting open a seed of the persimmon will show one of three shapes; a fork, knife, or spoon. The spoon means a lot of wet heavy snow. The fork shows a mild winter with powdery light snow. The knife will bring a bitter cold icy winter.

Look for more about using nature to predict the weather next week.


  1. Very interesting predictions you have found, many i had never heard of.

    1. Thank you. I hope to astound you even more next week when I use the animal kingdom to predict the weather.

    2. know for a fact the one about tree leaves flipping before a rain is very true. thanks for this list.

  2. i love the poem, my first time to hear it, very interesting. i've learned some of them but most i just learned today, awesome to know.

    1. Thank you. I like the poem too. Sailors seem to have the best poems about the weather.


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