by Mary Kornely, Denmark Elementary School, Denmark, Wisconsin
Weather has always played an important part of everyday life. Long before modern meteorology and weather forecasting, people found ways to predict the weather. Much of this was done through catchy phrases or poems that were easy to remember. Many of the weather sayings that developed from observations were focussed around farmers and sailors because of their direct ties to nature. This lesson looks at popular Wisconsin weather sayings.
What are some weather sayings (proverbs) that people in Wisconsin use?
What are the scientific connections between these proverbs and meteorology?
- To understand that weather sayings are a part of daily life.
- To understand that weather sayings have a cultural link to a community.
- To differentiate between fact and fiction.
- To research phrase origins.
- To recognize rhyming patterns.
- To research weather patterns.
Preparing to Teach this Lesson
This list of weather sayings is only a start of an on going list that can be generated. Every culture around the world has its own weather sayings. These come from sayings that are used in Wisconsin.
- Red skies at night, sailors delight.
- Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.
- When the clouds look like horsetails, rain or snow will come in 3 days.
- When your bone joint hurt a storm is coming.
- When the wind howls around corners and cracks, and down chimneys rain is coming.
- When the glass (air pressure) is low on a ship, the sailors get ready for a storm.
- A ring around the sun or moon means a storm is coming. Count the stars within the ring and rain will come in that many days.
- When you see 'sun dogs' (a bright spot on either side of the sun) look for rain.
- Rain in three days when the horns of the moon point down.
- Rain before seven quits before eleven.
- If it rains on Easter Sunday, it will rain every Sunday for 7 weeks.
- It will rain the same time the next day if the sun shines while it rains.
- If the groundhog sees its shadow on February 2 nd, there will be 6 more weeks of winter.
- When squirrels lay in a big store of nuts, look for a hard winter.
- Three days of heavy morning fog, watch for bad weather in 90 days.
- Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
- When bees stay close to the hive, rain is close by.
- When the forest murmurs and the mountains roar, close your windows and shut the doors.
- Moss dry, sunny sky, moss wet, rain you'll get.
- Count the cricket chirps to tell the temperature.
- Count the seconds between lightning flashes and thunder booms to tell how far away the storm is.
- When smoke descends, good weather ends.
- Horse (cows) tails in the west – the weather is the best! Horse (cows) tails in the east is weather coming at the least.
- Rain is on its way if people with curly hair find it curlier and people with straight hair find it straighter.
- Before a rain storm:
- Cats will clean themselves more and meow more,
- Cow and sheep will huddle together seeking comfort,
- Horses "switch and twitch" and sometimes bolt,
- Insects fly lower and bite more, and
- Birds chirp louder.
- dandelions close their blooms tightly,
- morning glories tuck in their blooms as if ready for a long nap,
- clover folds up its leaves,
- leaves on many trees rollup or show their underside,
The following are scientific explanations for some of the Weather Sayings. Many can be explained through modern technology, some are steeped in local lore yet seem to, for unknown reasons, be somewhat correct.
- "Red sky in the morning sailors (farmer) take warning."
This refers to the rising sun reflecting off of western clouds that are bringing rain.
- "Red sky at night, sailors (farmers) delight."
This refers to the setting sun being visible and reflecting off of eastern clouds that have already passed on.
- "When the glass is low on a ship, the sailors get ready for a storm."
"When your joints hurt, a storm is coming."
Both of these sayings are in reference to low air pressure, which brings in storms. When the glass is low sailors know to prepare for bad weather and seek a safe harbor. It is also common knowledge that low pressure and dampness will cause arthritic joints to ache.
- Any reference to cow or horse tails in the sky is a reference to cirrus (change of weather) clouds.
- Dew indicates a fair tomorrow.
- Have each student choose one or several Weather Sayings and attempt to explain them using prior knowledge skills.
- Research each Weather Saying for scientific principles.
- Using available metrological data track #1 and #2; #10; #11.
- Challenge the students to collect more weather sayings and make a booklet, poster, or illustrate.
- Keep a weather journal.
- Write Weather Sayings poetry or riddles.
- Graph daily weather over a period of time and relate this data to Weather Sayings.
Weather Proverbs is a two-part lesson on the science of weather proverbs from NASA's Athena project.
Weather Proverbs: True or False? examines the scientific basis behind seven weather proverbs.
Folklore Weather Forecasting includes weather proverbs of many types and suggested activities for studying them with a class.
Standards and Benchmarks
|Grade 4||Grade 8|
A.4.1.b A.4.2.b,c A.4.3 D.4.2 F.4.1
A.8.1.c A.8.2 A.8.4 D.8.2 F.8.1
A.4.2 A.4.3 A.4.6 B.4.1 B.4.2 C.4.1 C.4.2 C.4.3 E.4.4 E.4.5
A.8.3 A.8.4 A.8.6 B8.2d B.8.4 C.8.1 C.8.2 C.8.3 C.8.4