Taking Back The Weather

Since forever, weather has been vitally important to human survival. So, from day one, people learned how to read nature in order to forecast weather patterns. This way they’d know if they needed to bring the animals indoors, if tomorrow would be a good day for hunting, if the crops needed to be harvested, if it was too early to plant, if a storm was on the way, etc., etc. This method was amost 100% accurate.

Over time some people proved themselves to be better at reading nature than others and they became the designated weather predictors. They’d pass on their skills to the next generation and so on until some wise ass decided this important weather education ought to be formalized and they invented a university and meterological studies and all sorts of highly scientific equipment and specialized weather centers to really pinpoint weather patterns. The Environment Canada Weather Office now boasts a 45% accuracy rate in forecasting the weather. (OOooooOOOooooooOO… 45% is a FAIL, dudes!!!)

One day someone is going to figure out that blogging would make a good university course (if it isn’t already). And they will have some egghead who’s never blogged, but has done a lot of  “research” on it,  teach it and that will be the end of the blogosphere as we know it. Mark my words. ~ XUP

Anyhoooo… back to the weather. I think maybe it’s time for all of us to Take Back The Weather! Because I’m really tired of planning an outdoor activity after the weather people told me it was going to be hot and sunny only to wake up to near freezing temperatures and torrential rain. And I’m tired of going to work in the morning in my rain boots, raincoat and toting a big old umbrella because a “heavy rainfall warning” has been issued and then it turns out to be the hottest, sunniest day ever. (Not that that’s happened around here in living memory.)

So, okay let’s do our own forecasts. Screw you meteorologists and your gyroscopes. We’re just going to go outside and look at nature in order to figure out what’s going on with the weather. How crazy is that?  


The Air

  • Take a sniff of the air.  In low pressure, plants will give off a composty smell, flowers will smell stronger. And low pressure means rain or some other precipitation.
  • Also, sounds will also be sharper in a low pressure situation.
  • Check which way the wind is blowing: 
    • Winds blowing in an easterly direction usually mean an approaching storm.
    • Westerly winds mean nice weather ahead.
    • Strong winds mean a worse storm and if trees are showing the underside of their leaves, it means a really nasty storm. When high winds hit a tree, dense leaves will catch the wind and pull the tree over. Folding up its leaves affords a tree some measure of protection.

The Sky

  • Remember the “red sky at night” ditty? 
    • If the sky is red at night when the sun is setting it means there’s a high pressure system mixing with dry air. Since this high pressure system is in the west and since prevailing winds move weather systems from west to east, this means nice weather is on its way. 
    • If the sky is red in the morning, the news is not so good. It means the dry air has passed and a low pressure system is on its way. And low pressure means moisture.
  • The moon:
    • If the moon is reddish or pale also means nice weather.
    •  If the moon is bright and clear, it means a low pressure system is in the air and we all know by now that low pressure equals precipitation.
    • And if there’s  a circle around the moon, rain or snow will follow soon (as the old rhyme goes).

The Birds

Our bird friends can help us predict the weather, too. They already know what’s coming and will adjust their day accordingly.

  • If birds are flying high in the sky, everything is fine and dandy.
  • If they’re down low and/or roosting, rain is on the way.
  • If you see a whole lot of birds in trees or on power lines it means a rain or snow storm is coming really, really soon. If you see birds feeding during a storm, you’ll know the storm isn’t going to be ending any time soon.

The Clouds

Clouds, of course are excellent weather predictors:

  • White, thin clouds high in the sky mean nice weather for a while.
  • Clouds will become thicker, darker and lower in the sky as bad weather approaches. That much, I reckon is pretty straight forward.  
  • If there are several layers of clouds moving in different directions, you know some heavy shit is about to come down.
  • If there are lots of clouds on a winter night, you will know that warmer weather is coming the next day, though it may snow.
  • A clear sky at night, winter or summer, means a nice day ahead.

The Long Range Forecast

If November is a warm month, the upcoming winter will be severe.

If squirrels seem busier than usual gathering nuts, it will be a bad winter.

If the summer is extra hot, the winter will be extra cold.

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

If the autumn is windy, then expect a mild winter.

If the spring in windy, expect a cool summer.

If it is a dry spring, it will be a wet summer.

A mild winter precedes a cool spring.

The Weather Related Anecdote

The Old Farmer’s Almanac  has been a great source for long-range weather predictions since 1792. I always make sure I have one in my Christmas stocking because I’m a little obsessed with the weather. Growing up on a farm, (ya, ya, enough already with the growing-up-on-a-farm references) weather was an ongoing topic of conversation, worry, anxiety and joy in the house. And because I still like to spend a good part of my day outdoors, I want to know what’s going on out there—in the days, weeks and even months ahead.

Back to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. One year, back in the mid-1800’s, the publishers noticed that the upcoming edition did not have a weather prediction for a certain date in June and the thing was about to go to print. “Oh hell,” said the editor (because that’s how editors talked even back then), “Just put anything in there,”  So the flunky thought to himself, “Fine, let’s see how they like this” and he wrote —  on this day, it is not only going to be fair, but it is also going to rain, snow and sleet — And, as it turned out, the forecast was 100% accurate. (True story).

This guaranteed them subscriptions for the next few decades.

Although I complain about the weather a lot, like a good Canadian, I actually love weather. I once spent 6 weeks in a country that didn’t have any weather. Every morning the weather guy on the radio would announce, “80 degrees and sunnyyyyy” (in a liltingly musical Caribbean accent). I thought I would like that, but I didn’t.  I actually felt like I might lose my mind if it didn’t rain soon.

29 responses to “Taking Back The Weather

  1. Very interesting. Even people’s moods change. I notice that I get extremely tired and sleep a lot before it’s going to rain.

  2. at my ripe old age my aching knees can predict rain within a 24 hour window….they’ve been sore a lot this summer!

    *i just love the visual of extra busy squirrels collecting an extra stash of nuts for the winter 🙂

  3. It’s no good for long range planning but if you want excellent weather reporting short term go get the aviation forecasts for your area. Accurate to 80% for 12 hrs and 7% for 24 hrs.

  4. Canadians obsessed with weather? Never.

    Very interesting post — I was talking to someone about the leaves thing the other day. Now, you realize I’m going to have to go Google to find out the whys for those items where you didn’t explain, right? Was this a make-work project? 😉

  5. Reminds me of the farmer who used his horse’s tail as a weather indicator (not predictor, however). If the horse’s tail was stretched out, it was windy. If it was wet, it was raining. You can do the same with a piece of string, if you don’t have room in the yard for a horse.

    I also heard that if cows are lying down in a field, it means there will be long lasting rain, because they want to keep their tummies dry at least. Not sure about that one.

    I have to say, I lurves the radar at the Environment Canada weather site. I will organize whether and when I got out on my bike (or whether I bring the GoreTex), using that radar.

    I WILL mark your words on the blogging course prediction! That made me laugh, thanks.

  6. When I was in junior high school, I broke my left ankle twice in a very short period and for years it would ache and throb a day or so before a big rainstorm. Now, finally, that little party trick has seemingly lost its poop and faded out. Which is a shame really, because – you know – HANDY. (Ankley?)

    One of the local news channels here had a big feature to their weather programming called “Live Dopplar Radar!!!” (with all the exclamation points and everything I think) with a tag line – and you can’t make up this crap – “Live weather as it happens now!” Really? Because I have that radar too. IT’S CALLED MY WINDOWS.

  7. It smelled like garbage on my walk to work this morning. I suppose this means a storm is coming from Toronto. 😛

  8. Animals can be good predictors too. If the cows are out grazing in the rain, expect the rain to last all day.
    If the leaves are ‘turning over’ in the wind, rain is on its way.

    I love some of your examples and ideas here. Great post!

    I have fungus growing on the deck, along the laneway and who knows where else. Probably in the laundry. And I am still reading Environment Canada for the laughs.

  9. Jen – You must have been comatose these last couple of months then, eh?

    Meanie – Too much pogoing and slam dancing in the 80s I guess….

    Jazz – You could just clip the post and stick it on your fridge.

    Bandobras – I think I could be pretty accurate for 12 hours, too – but 7% for 24 hours, that’s pretty dismal. Most of the time anyone off the street has a 50/50 chance of guessing the weather for the next day correctly, don’t they?

    Louise – I explained about the leaves and most of the other stuff, didn’t I? If I didn’t explain it, it was because I figured it was common sense. But don’t let that stop you – I’m sure there is more much more to learn that what I’ve crammed in here.

    Grouchy – OK! I think a certificate is not too much to ask for reading one of my blog posts. It’s in the mail.

    Julia – On the east coast they sell “Newfie Weather Predictors” that work like the horse’s tail – a stick on a string. If the stick’s wet, it’s raining; if the stick’s dry, it’s not. If the stick is swinging around it’s windy; if you can’t see the stick it’s foggy. I think the thing about the cows is true – it makes sense.

    Lesley – Where the heck have you been? If you’re commenting, does that mean you have a new blog post, too? (I’ve noticed a pattern). I like it when they’re telling me on the live radar that it’s nice and sunny out, but on my live window it’s raining.

    Kelvin – A whole new weather front type to worry about! The P Uester.

    Mary – Environment Canada just posted a forecast somewhere around June 3rd and then everyone went on vacation for the summer and just let it repeat itself daily. That’s what I’m thinking.

  10. So why have we on the West Coast got YOUR heat and humidity right now, and you Back East have OUR rain and cooler temps? And WE rarely have a/c in our homes here!

    PS – Just got back from brunch with Hannah and her Hubby. There was a lot of great conversation – they’re both fun, easy-to-talk to people! I quite enjoyed myself, and hope they did too!

  11. My father was a weather wizard…he would announce a bad snow storm three days before it hit and the Weatherpeople seemed clueless. I one time made a large purchase for a wholesale florist I was working for on a weather prediction my father made for a state 1200 miles away. My boss was furious at me because the weather people said that Hurricane Andrew was going to bypass Miami and my father said it was going to slam it dead on. As history will prove my father was right and the company in Jersey I worked for was one of the few companies with a boat load of product. I wish his talent was like shooting quarters out his nose, because that would have been pretty damn awesome…

  12. When I’m not posting something, it’s usually because I’m slammed with work deadlines or off the internet for a while or whatever which means I’m also not reading/commenting. When I can get back online to post, that’s when I can also make the rounds reading and catching up on blogs as well. I’ve discovered I just can’t do this stuff every day (my eyes protest as well) but I always catch up when I can.

  13. It’s windy here a lot and seems to have nothing to do with the weather. It blows hot or cold, wet or dry. Sort of a wind tunnel coming down the Rhone River Valley I think.

  14. You said:

    Westerly winds mean nice weather ahead.

    That must be regional. Our worst storms – including the one that knocked out our two skylights – came from the west. Our good weather comes from the north.

    But I totally get your point. It’s kinda like the industrial revolution made everyone scorn all the old classic “folk” stuff and we are just now rediscovering it. Now where can I find some brightassorange merthiolate to put on my scratch?

  15. Love this, but given the current state of our summer it’s STILL hard to predict. I mean really, rain one minute, pounding sun the next? I hardly know how to dress. And the cows (which I think are THE classic predictor) must be very tired of all the standing up/lying down they’re doing.

  16. Chris – A perfect stocking stuffer.

    Pinklea – I know! They’re fun people aren’t they? Really, all bloggers are fun people; it’s part of the definition of “blogger”. I’m hoping August will be hot and dry and we can send our wet, cool weather on over to you. You’re welcome to it.

    Cedar – How does he do it? Is he psychic or just really in tune with nature? Was he a farmer? My dad was pretty good with figuring out the weather, but he was no wizard. Also, if you’re going to wish for a dad who shoots nasal coins, why not gold dubloons instead of stupid quarters?

    Linda – Ah, the Mistrals?? In western Canada they have the Chinooks, which I think are similar – freak winds that can blow in a snow storm in the middle of a hot June day.

    Geewtis – I just don’t understand how these weather people with all their expensive equipment and satellites and weather stations in outer space and zillions of years of education, can’t tell me exactly what the weather is going to be like tomorrow, but any farmer worth his salt can give you a pretty accurate picture of the weather for the next week or two.

    Andrea – I think the cows, like the rest of us, have just given up and are staying indoors watching DVDs.

  17. For a moment there I thought Chris gets the Farmer’s Almanac to see WHEN is Christmas, and that it’s very accurate in its predictions.

  18. I thought I’d commented here … must have been confused by the clouds.

    What I love to laugh at is the national weather forecast I hear on CBC every morning where they tell me what it is like in the whole of NWT where it will be 26 and partly cloudy or Nunavut will be sunny and a high of 24, and Atlantic Canada will be 19 and cloudy. All of it. Yet, it can be 3 different weather systems just in the city I live in with rain on one side of the street and and a massive storm 2 miles away that none of us knew about as we walked along the beach. Maybe we should all have a tree and a cow in our back yards and watch what they do?

  19. I’ve also heard that the thickness of your pet’s coat can determine whether or not you’re going to have a cold winter. Whenever mine wears his parka, we know it’s going to be ugly.

  20. mayopie: my pets refuse to dress, even for dinner. Another way in which they are completely useless. I never have any clue how cold winter will be until it is upon me.

  21. Kelvin – Hey, you might be right. I could never tell it was Christmas until my OFA arrived.

    Violetsky – Birds will do just as well as cows — we all have trees and birds. But ya, I don’t even know why they still bother. Would you go to a doctor that had a 45% success rate? Would you hire anyone for anything who boasted of a 45% success rate?

    Mayopie – My cat is partial to my silky robe. Every damn morning when I open my bathroom door and he sees it hanging there, his eyes get all glazy and he leaps up and pulls it off the hanger. Then he wraps himself up in it until I can wrestle it away from him. What do you suppose that indicates about the upcoming winter?

    Elaine – See my response to Mayopie.

  22. I don’t think Bazel going for the robe is weather sensitive. He probably just wants to be close to you but doesn’t know how to say so. He is in fact a teen boy so it’s kind of like them punching the girl’s arm to show they like them.

  23. Bandobras – Bazel bites my arm quite a lot and head butts me, so I don’t think he’s that subtle. I think he’s just a little kinky — well, as kinky as a cat without testicles can be anyway.

    Elaine – It’s high!! Really, really high! He can jump like a nobody’s business. I’d have to suspend it from the ceiling and even then I think he would find a way to get it. He freakin’ loves that thing. I think if you do a search on this blog for Bazel, you’ll find a photo of him lovin’ up the robe.