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Weather lore began as a means of predicting weather long before advanced technological methods were available. People often relied on nature for upcoming weather events. Weather deals with atmospheric conditions during a particular time and place; whereas lore is a set of traditional beliefs, like folklore, that is passed down from one generation to the other. Weather lore combines environmental changes with old tales or sayings. While it is true that many of these tales may not have scientific basis, a number of them can and do accurately predict weather.
“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.” This popular weather lore saying involves reading the sky for clues to weather predictions. Seaman often read the skies, including the stars, for predicting safe passage across seas. “When the stars begin to huddle, the earth will soon become a puddle.” Sky patterns can include anything from studying sky colors and astrological signs to cloud formations and wind movement.
Clouds are formed by moisture; therefore, numerous clouds, especially those that tower high in the sky, are usually indicative of rain. “When clouds appear like rocks and towers, the earth will be washed by frequent showers.” Winds can signal weather conditions as with this weather lore saying, “When the wind is blowing from the east, ‘tis not fit for man nor beast.” Easterly winds are said to represent poor conditions when accompanied by low pressure. West winds, however, often bring about pleasant weather.
In addition to studying sky patterns, weather lore draws upon the unusual behavior of both plants and animals. Numerous plants, for instance, are able to gauge temperatures, opening and closing their foliage as the temperatures rise and fall. High humidity and winds can signal approaching rain. In response, many trees will curl up their leaves. “When leaves show their undersides, be very sure that rain betides.” Flowers may also fold up their petals prior to rain to protect pollen from washing away.
Animals are extremely sensitive to changes in the environment, spawning unusual behavior. For example, impending earthquakes stir up significant odd behavior in animals, as they feel vibrations long before people do. This may cause certain species to huddle together or become more vocal. “Look for rain when the crow flies low.” This adage refers to the onset of rain, which is indicated by a fall in barometric pressure that causes birds to fly lower to the ground. Insects may become more active too.
Drops in barometric pressure not only affect animals. Many people can also feel the onset of changing weather. “Joints ache, rainy weather at stake.” This weather lore saying emphasizes the fact that when air pressure drops, it can affect the joints. As a result, joints may become achy and painful, especially in those suffering from conditions like arthritis.