Despite all the scientific talk about "systems" and "fronts" and "highs" and "lows," the forecast as any Atlantic Canadian well knows - isn't always trustworthy. Without today's advanced technology, past generations relied on traditional wisdom to predict the weather. Everyone's heard of "Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky in morning, sailor's warning." But have you heard (or relied on) any of these bits of weatherlore?
Is a sure sign of rain.
When the air got damp enough to cause one's rheumatism to act up, it was a sign that rain was on the way.
Gulls flying at great height
Windy weather overnight.
When gulls fly high over sea or land
Stormy weather is close at hand.
If ducks do slide at Hollandtide
At Christmas they will swim.
If the weather is cold enough to freeze the ponds over by November 11, it will warm up enough by Christmas to thaw the ice.
If the goats come home in files
Get your fish in covered piles.
Goats coming home in a single file is an indication of rain.
Seabirds keeping near the land
Tell a storm is near at hand
But flying seabirds out of sight
You may stay and fish all night.
Long foretold, long last
Short notice, soon past.
Any upcoming type of weather that the barometer indicates well in advance is weather that will last a long time; when a short warning is given, that weather won't last long.
Quick rise after low
Sure sign of a stronger blow.
If the barometer rises quickly after windy weather, it will blow again, only harder.
When the glass falls low, prepare for a blow
When it slowly rises high, lofty sails you may fly.
When the barometer indicates a drop in air pressure, expect strong winds; if the air pressure increases slowly, expect fair winds (if it increases quickly, expect strong winds).
If clouds are gathering, thick and fast
Keep sharp lookout for sail and mast
If they slowly outward crawl
Shoot your lines, net and trawl.
If clouds gather fast, bad weather is on the way; if they spread slowly outward, good weather is coming.
If Candlemas Day (February 2) is fair and fine
The worst of the winter's left behind.
If Candlemas Day is dark and grum,
The worst of the winter is yet to come.
Mackerel sky and mare's tails
Makes lofty ships carry low sails.
When cirrus clouds (clouds made of ice particles) that are sometimes as high as 20,000 feet, take on the shape of the bands on the side of a mackerel or the shape of a mare's tail, expect stormy weather.
A clear night in the fall indicates frost is on the way.
Saturday's change and Sunday's full
Never brought good and never will.
If the change in the moon is on a Saturday and it is full on Sunday, expect bad weather.
The closer the ring to the moon or sun
The further the weather yet to come.
A ring around the sun or moon indicates bad weather on the way. The smaller the ring, the longer it will take for the weather to arrive.
Bright Northern Lights above the hill,
A fine day, then a storm foretell.
A dripping June
Brings all things in tune
Rain in June is good for the growing of crops.
If the first days in April be foggy
Rain in June will make the grass boggy.
Foggy weather in early April indicates a rainy June.
Rain before seven
Fine before eleven.
If it rains early in the morning, it will be clear before afternoon.
If February gives much snow,
A fine summer it doth foreshow.
If St. Bartlemy Day (August 24) be fair and clear
Hopes for a prosperous autumn that year.
If St. Matthew's Day (September 21) is bright and clear
It means good weather for the coming year.
St. Swithin's Day (July 15) if we have rain
Forty days it will remain.
If St. Vitus Day (June 15) is rainy weather
It will rain for thirty days together.
The evening red, the morning grey
Are surely signs of a fine day
But the evening grey and the morning red
Makes the sailor shake his head.
When the sun is setting in a bank
A westerly wind is on the hank.
If there is a cloud bank on the horizon into which the sun sets, the next day will be a fine one with westerly winds.
When the wind shifts against the sun
Trust it not for back 'twill run.
If the wind turns against the direction of the sun, it will change again shortly.
A nor'wester is never in debt to a southeaster.
A northwest wind is sure to follow a southwest wind, and blow twice as long and twice as hard.
If the wind's in the east on Candlemas Day (February 2)
There it will stick 'til the end of May.
When rain comes before the wind
Halyards sheets and braces mind
But when the wind comes before the rain
Soon you may make sail again.
If it starts to rain before the wind begins to blow, expect strong winds; but if the rain comes after the wind starts, the wind won't amount to much.
When the wind blows from the south
It blows the bait from the fish's mouth
When the wind blows from the north
The skillful fisher goes not forth
When the wind blows from the east
'Tis neither fit for man nor beast
When the wind blows from the west
Then 'tis at its very best.
When the winds of October won't make the leaves go,
There'll be a frosty winter with banks of snow.
When the wind is drawing water
Better bide home with wife and daughter.
When sun rays are visible down to the water, it was said that the sun was drawing water (causing water to evaporate). This was a sign of bad weather ahead.
Do you know an example of weatherlore that we haven't included here? If so, please leave a comment on this article. For all these, plus even more examples of weatherlore, see the Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador, by Ron Young.