Forecasting weather nature’s way

So what does a groundhog, a cow, a rooster and a rainbow trout have in common? Well, in addition to being members of the animal kingdom they have all been used as weather forecasters at one time or the other throughout history.


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Of course, we all know that last Saturday, Feb. 2, was Groundhog’s Day and that as usual Punxsutawney Phil was awakened from his winter’s nap to make his annual spring forecast. Still, no one is exactly sure how groundhog day came about in the first place.

There are early references to Groundhog Day in our history books and some historians believe that the designation of the holiday initially had to do with the fact that Feb. 2 is also a religious holiday called “Candlemas Day.” There is an old adage that says, “If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, winter will have another fight. If Candlemas Day brings clouds and rain, winter won’t come again.”

Still there seems to be no clear explanation as to what groundhogs have to do with a day set aside to celebrate the purification of the Blessed Virgin. Nevertheless Americans have been celebrating Groundhog’s Day on the same day as Candlemas since the early 1800s.


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Of course back then, there was not such organization as the U.S. Weather Bureau and Doppler Radar had been invented, so the only way people could predict the weather was by using the signs found in Mother Nature.

Exactly how reliable those early weather predictors were is a matter for speculation, still learning about them makes for some very interesting reading. So in this article we have included some of the more interesting weather prediction signs relied on by earlier generations.

For instance, farmers used to use the seed from the fruit of the persimmon tree to determine how cold the upcoming winter would be. Back in those days, farmers split the persimmon seed open to determine which type of flatware the interior resembled.

If it looked like a fork the winter would be warm and if the insides resembled a knife the season’s normal chilly winds would be “cut in half.” However, if the seed’s interior resembled a spoon, farmers should prepare themselves for a lot of snow shoveling.


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Then of course there were those predictors that provided a one-day forecast only. Anglers, for instance, often determined whether or not a storm was imminent by applying the old adage, “Trout jump high, when a rain is nigh.”

And farmers sometimes set their next day’s schedule after observing how their poultry behaved in the evening. “If a rooster crows on going to bed. You may rise with a water head.”

Large livestock were also believed to have special insight into what type of weather Mother Nature had in store. Many farmers and ranchers believed they could tell whether a cold spell was coming by watching how their cattle and horses behaved.

If the animals stood with their faces pointing east it was believed that a cold weather front was approaching from the west. By the same token if the animals stood facing the west their owners often believed that a period of unpredictable weather accompanied by an easterly wind would soon arrive.

Of course there are all those old adages that we are all familiar with that supposedly applied to the weather, like the one that says if the caterpillars (or wooly worms) had an extremely heavy coat in the fall that meant the winter was going to be very cold. Or the one that said if there was a “ring around the moon” it would rain the next day. Also when the moon is full, if it appears to be very clear and close to the earth that means a rainy spill is on the way.


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Rainbow trout

And there is of course the ever popular, “red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailor’s take warning.” And according to some weather experts that particular adage actually has some merit. For if the sky is very red at sunset, it usually appears that way because the sun is shining through dust particles that are being pushed ahead of a high pressure system that will bring with it clear sunny skies. While a very red sky at sunrise generally is caused by the sun shining through dust particles that is being pushed ahead of an approaching weather front.

There are of course dozens more, like the idea that if the leaves of a cottonwood tree seem extremely shiny, it is because they are turning upside down in preparation for a heavy rainstorm. And the idea that if there is a heavy dew in summer, or a heavy frost in winter the weather will be clear. While the reverse is true dry grass in the morning and a very light or no frost means rain or snow is on the way. Again, some weather experts say this adage is nothing more than the simple truth since the heavy cloud cover that precedes most storm fronts acts as a barrier to keep dew and or frost from forming and clear skies allows the ground moisture to rise and spread over the grass and other surfaces.

So whether its through one uses Mother Nature or listens to the local meteorologist, it would seem that attempting to determine what kind of weather we can expect each day and over the long term is one of mankind’s top priorities.


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