Weather Lore: Fact or Fiction?

Weather has always been a topic of fascination and conversation for people around the world. Over generations, communities have developed weather lore, a collection of sayings and beliefs about the weather, often based on observations of natural phenomena. But how much of this weather lore is grounded in scientific fact, and how much of it is mere folklore? In this article, we'll explore some common weather lore, separating fact from fiction and uncovering the scientific explanations behind these age-old sayings.

"Red Sky at Night, Sailor's Delight; Red Sky in the Morning, Sailor's Warning."

Fact or Fiction? Fact.

This famous adage is one of the most reliable pieces of weather lore. It is based on the principle that a red sky at night often indicates fair weather is on the way because a red or orange sunset is caused by the sun's rays scattering less due to the presence of high-pressure systems and stable air. Conversely, a red sky in the morning often means a storm or inclement weather is approaching as the sunlight is passing through moisture-laden air.

"When Swallows Fly High, the Weather Will Be Dry."

Fact or Fiction? Fact.

This saying is based on the observation that birds, including swallows, tend to fly higher in the sky when the weather is fair. When high-pressure systems dominate, the atmosphere is stable, and birds can soar at higher altitudes. On the other hand, during low-pressure systems and approaching storms, birds fly lower to the ground to avoid the unstable and turbulent air.

"If Woolly Worms Are Black, Expect a Harsh Winter; If They're Brown, Winter Will Be Mild."

Fact or Fiction? Partially Fact.

Woolly worms, or caterpillars of the tiger moth, are often used in folklore to predict winter weather. The coloration of these caterpillars can vary, but it is believed that a predominance of black bands suggests a harsh winter, while brown bands indicate a milder one. However, this lore is not scientifically proven, and caterpillar coloration is influenced by various factors, including genetics and diet. It's fun to observe woolly worms, but they shouldn't be relied upon for accurate weather predictions.

"Rainbow in the Morning Gives You Fair Warning; Rainbow at Night Is a Sailor's Delight."

Fact or Fiction? Fact.

Rainbows are optical meteorological phenomena caused by the refraction, dispersion, and reflection of sunlight in water droplets, resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky. When you see a rainbow in the morning, it often means that there is moisture or rain in the atmosphere to the west, indicating potential bad weather ahead. A rainbow at night, on the other hand, suggests that the rain has passed, and the sky is clearing.

"Cows Lying Down Means Rain Is Coming."

Fact or Fiction? Fact.

This weather lore saying has some basis in reality. Cows and other livestock often lie down before rain because they can sense changes in barometric pressure and humidity. When a storm or rain front is approaching, the air pressure drops, and humidity rises, causing animals to seek shelter or lie down to conserve energy. So, if you see cows resting on the ground, it might be a sign that wet weather is on the horizon.

"Halo Around the Moon Predicts Rain Soon."

Fact or Fiction? Fact.

When you see a halo, a bright ring or circle, around the moon, it often indicates the presence of high, thin clouds made up of ice crystals. These clouds are typically associated with an approaching warm front, which can bring rain within the next 12 to 24 hours. So, this weather lore saying holds true in many cases.

"Clear Moon, Frost Soon; Cloudy Moon, Warmer Night."

Fact or Fiction? Fact.

The clarity of the moon at night can indeed provide some insights into the weather. A clear night sky allows heat to escape rapidly into space, causing temperatures to drop and potentially leading to frost. On the other hand, when the moon is obscured by clouds, the heat is trapped closer to the Earth's surface, resulting in milder nighttime temperatures.

"If Birds Fly Low, Expect Rain and a Blow."

Fact or Fiction? Fact.

Just like the saying about swallows, this lore about birds flying low also has a basis in meteorology. Birds often fly lower to the ground when a storm is approaching because the air pressure drops and the atmosphere becomes unstable. This behavior is a natural response to avoid the turbulence and strong winds associated with approaching weather fronts.

"When Pinecones Open, We're in for Good Weather."

Fact or Fiction? Fact.

Some trees, including certain pine species, respond to changes in humidity by opening and closing their pinecones. When the air is dry and fair weather is expected, pinecones tend to open up to release their seeds. Conversely, in humid or rainy conditions, they remain closed. This observation aligns with actual weather patterns, making it a reliable piece of weather lore.


While many pieces of weather lore may seem whimsical or superstitious, some are rooted in scientific principles and observations of natural phenomena. Over time, communities have developed these sayings as a way to predict or interpret the weather before the advent of modern meteorology. While weather lore can provide some interesting insights, it's important to rely on more accurate and up-to-date sources, such as the Bureau of Meteorology, for precise weather forecasts and information.

In the end, weather lore adds a touch of tradition and curiosity to our understanding of the natural world, reminding us of the deep connection between human culture and the ever-changing atmosphere above us.

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