Predicting Weather with Nature

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The weather. Wherever you go, there it is, sometimes adding perfection to a day or night, sometimes ruining the best laid plans.

But to be forewarned is to be forearmed, if by armed you mean having a rain suit at hand during a weekend that may feature a cloud burst. Fortunately, for those who travel beyond reach of weather reports, nature provides a lot of clues about oncoming storms and sunshine.

Even close to home, these clues can be helpful

Red sky: If the sky is red at night, the next day will likely be clear; if red in the morning, expect rain by the end of the day; remember, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in morning, sailor take warning.”

 Gray morning: A gray dawn with foggy valleys indicates—surprise! —a clear day ahead.

Listen to frogs: Several hours before a storm hits, frogs increase their calling, apparently because the higher pre-storm humidity keeps their skin moist, allowing them to stay out of water longer.

Summer halos: a hazy ring around the sun or moon in summer is a reliable sign that the weather pattern is in for a change, usually bringing rain.

Dewy dawn: heavy morning or late-evening dew (or frost in cold months) may indicate 12 hours of continued good weather.

Hair: the hair on your head will contract when damp and relax when dry, so straighter hair means dry weather, wavier or curlier means wet.

Animals: cattle gather in lower elevations and away from exposed hills when the weather is about to change for the worse; in mountainous areas, deer, wild sheep and elk move from mountainsides to sheltered valleys as storms approach and go back up when the blow is over.

Wind direction: winds from the south tend to bring rain (old adage: “Wind from the south brings rain in its mouth”), while winds from the north are associated with clear weather. On a similar note, if the wind has been blowing for the past few hours, rushing clouds along, and then suddenly dies, you are in for a major storm

Your nose: if you live on the Great Plains you may smell approaching rain—the lower pressure and higher humidity that come with rain cause the ground to emit a rich, sweet odor similar to that of fresh-mown hay

 Campfire smoke: if smoke hangs low to the ground and drifts off into surrounding tree branches, rain is possible; if the smoke rises in a straight, vertical column, anticipate fair weather.

Crickets: If you count the number of times a cricket chirps in 14 seconds, then add 40, you can get a close estimate of the air temperature in Fahrenheit; for example, 25 chirps in 14 seconds plus 40 equals 65 degrees F (note: air temperature on the ground where crickets hang out may be several degrees cooler than the air around your head).

Coffee: stir strongly brewed coffee (no instant) in a mug with vertical sides to make bubbles form—if the bubbles scatter and then gather in the center, expect fair weather; if they cling to the sides of the cup, rain is possible.