The Scientific Basis for Popular Folklore That Predicts the Weather

Before television, computers and smartphones, people predicted the weather based on observation and tradition. It’s hard to know if some of these nuggets of wisdom are fact or fiction, so we asked Elwynn Taylor, extension climatologist at Iowa State University, to give his thoughts.

The-Scientific-Proof-Behind-the-Folklores-that-Predict-the-WeatherCourtesy Gary Hovland for country extraIf a groundhog sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter

“Lore that develops locally is ‘right’ more often than not, especially in the region where the saying originated. A hedgehog in Flanders seeing or not seeing its shadow … turns out to be close to 80 percent accurate. However, in the northeast United States, where meteorology has very different patterns, it is likely to be wrong 70 percent of all years.”

(Try these genius ways to predict the weather without looking online.)

If a rooster crows before bed, he’ll wake with a wet head

“Folks who are greatly impacted by the weather, farmers in particular, pay heed to weather and any clues as to what is coming. My rooster seemed to crow when things were ‘different’ any time of day or night, as well as consistently at the break of day. Perhaps the crowing had something to do with stormy conditions arriving, but I never felt sure of it.”

March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb

“The lion in winter, or the constellation Leo, appears in a pattern of a backward question mark dominant in the clear nighttime sky. It disappears low on the western predawn horizon as the month moves on, and it is replaced by the lamb, Aries.”

A year of snow, fruit will grow

“Apples and peaches need a number of hours with the temperature below 45 degrees before the trees are ready to respond to spring warmth. The cold prevents premature growth and increases the chances of a full and bountiful crop. Snow cover prevents the daytime temperatures from increasing above the 45-degree threshold.”

Trout jump high when rain is nigh

“Fish respond to changes in atmospheric pressure that occur as a rainstorm approaches. Insects also tend to come out before rain. So not only does the trout become more active, it also has a tantalizing food supply to jump for. There’s a similar saying. ‘When swallows swoop, get ready to scoop.’ It means when there are a lot of insects in the air to attract swallows, there will be some precipitation.”

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