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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Take the weather with you

There is an ongoing debate in my house about the quality of weather men. My dh claims our local news weatherman must work in an office with no windows because he has an appalling track record for getting his weather predictions wrong. He predicts fine weather then we get rain, and vice versa. The most interesting thing about him is the hand gestures he makes against the green screen.

When I was a kid we had an unreal weather man: serious and accurate – he told my farmer father exactly what he needed to hear and he could be relied upon without question. Yet everyone must retire eventually, and the nice man went away. Since I live on the coast, the main tv network weathermen are surfie types, worried about swell, rips and possible whale sightings.

But my dh’s recent rants got me wondering when we started relying on weathermen to tell us what the next few days were going to be like. When exactly did people start predicting the weather?

I’m not old enough to have seen the first tv broadcast in Australia, but the weather has been part of my life for as long as I can remember?
The radio? I’m not sure about when they started reporting the weather forecast.

The newspapers? Possibly.

My 1813 Gentleman’s Monthly Magazine published in London reported daily high and low temps, snow, rain and clouds but all of that was for the previous month.

I know for sure that the 1806 Sydney Gazette did not feature weather predictions in print. What they did report was floods and high tides, bushfires after they occurred along with the colony news of the day. But no predictions.

So how did people know what to expect?

It wasn't until the invention of the telegraph in 1837 that forecasting could actually begin. Prior to this, the only way to get information about weather in another area was to get it delivered by train. Unfortunately, the weather usually arrived before the train so that doesn’t seem to be very effective to me.

There is actually a long history of weather forecasting. The Babylonians predicted the weather from cloud patterns and astrology. Aristotle described weather patterns in Meteorologica around 340 BC. The Chinese prediction lore extends back as far as 300 BC as does ancient Indian methods. And the ordinary man, well … he stuck his head out the door and paid attention to what he could see.

  • Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.
  • If clouds are gathering thick and fast, Keep sharp look out for sail and mast, But if they slowly onward crawl, Shoot your lines, nets and trawl.
  • Rain before seven, clear by eleven (I am never passing this one along to my children – they’ll use it to avoid catching the bus)
  • When dew is on the grass, no rain will come to pass.

(The one about the dew is new to me, but I’ve got a feeling it could be right. Since Spring has sprung here in Aus I’ll have to wait a whole year to test it out though. LOL)

While these useful rhymes don’t predict long-term weather patterns, they’re as good, or better, than my weatherman for the next day’s forecasts. But I find it interesting to think that with all the spiffy technology, satellites, and complex weather broadcasts that the time honored methods still work best for the short term. Do you have other rhymes that you live by? If so, I'd love to hear them.


  1. Heather,
    I don't know any rhymes, but my dad is a big outdoorsman who will often say things like, "It's going to be a long, cold winter. The coats on the deer are really thick." Or "It smells like rain."

    Lots of farmers around where I live buy The Farmer's Almanack, which apparently predicts the weather for a year with pretty good accurancy. It doesn't tell you what to expect on a given day, but it predicts a late snow in April and things like that.

    I never watch the weather, and I don't need to since everyone else does and likes to talk about it. :-)

  2. ""it smells like rain." thats what I'm talking about, Sam. When i was growing up my rels were always saying stuff like that. Wishing i could remember them all now. Priceless wisdom!

  3. We look at the webs on trees (from some kind of worm, I think) that start appearing late August. Their thickness is an indication of either a severe or mild winter.

    As for rhymes:Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man, healthy, wealthy and wise. Also, April Showers Bring May Flowers.

    @Samantha- Hot Builder's grandparents (80 years young and still farming 3,000! acres) swear by The Farmer's Almanack! And it's scary how accurate it is.

    Thanks for the fun blog post Heather!

  4. Heather - Loved the blog and the barometer. Priceless. I don't have a rhyme I live by, but I do have a weatherman rant. I've lived all over the US, and undoubtedly in every city I've ever lived in, there's ONE guy at one of the stations who loves his job a little too much. I'm all for doing what you love, but some of these weathermen take that love to a new extreme. It's almost creepy.

    THAT guy here in the Raleigh-Durham area is Greg Fishel. Greg LOVES to hear himself talk. But more than that, Greg LOVES to break into regularly scheduled programming. Now I get that people need to know if bad weather is headed in their direction, but when you are huddled in a closet, waiting for a tornado to pass, or sitting in darkness because a storm has knocked out your power - YOU AREN'T WATCHING TV. You're listing to the radio. So please, GREG and all of you other really-happy-to-be-a-weatherman weathermen...leave scheduled programming alone - the runner at the bottom of the screen with updates works just fine!

    Hmm. I feel so much better now. :)

  5. Ava - Leave Greg alone. I happen to like him and his silly trips into the WRAL water fountain in the middle of winter. Then again he is from PA what can you expect from a Northern Guy.

    Besides Nate Johnson and one of the other guys did the hurricane coverage this year. It is so weird knowing one of the computer geeks from college is now a weatherman on TV.

    About the only weather things I can remember are:

    Red sky at night, sailor's delight; Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

    In WV there were a lot of Woolly Bear caterpillars. You were supposed to be able to predict winter by the black and brownish coloring. More black and you were in for a long, cold winter. More brown and your winter is short and mild. I liked playing with them because they curl into balls if you touch them.

  6. Beth - Leave Greg alone! *blech* When he can manage to keep from breaking in every time lightning is in the sky, I'll leave Greg alone. ;)

  7. I live by one rhyme and one rhyme alone:

    Liquor before beer, you're in the clear.
    Beer before liquor, never been sicker.

    And when that's your rhyme, you couldn't care less about the weather. LMAO!!

  8. LOL, Heather - we totally had a little piece of wood at the end of a string with the same accompanying instructions as your Genuine Austrailian Barometer - with the exception of the fire and burglar ones, and with the addition of "If it's white, it's snowing." I forgot all about that thing :)

  9. I love those sayings! And I LOVE that weather gauge above. :)

  10. Great post, Heather.

    I have no rhymes. But, I've been told the thicker a caterpillar's fur/hair is an indication of how cold the winter is going to be. Or, some people say the darker the color, the colder. I've never really paid attention to see if the caterpillar was right.

    I also have my own prediction, that has not been proven wrong in 10 yrs. As soon as dandelions bloom, there will no longer be a hard freeze. There may be a bit of snow but not enough to hurt anything, and the bad stuff is behind us. In othewords, dandelions are smarter than weathermen (and daffodils - I've seen a lot of frozen daffodils) :).

    Oh, and my dad's predictions, if it rains on Easter morning it will rain for the next six Sundays. He was a Sunday morning golfer so this one was very important to him :).

  11. Marquita - Not a fan of spider webs or worms so I'll take your word for that one. LOL It's not the weather but I have another healthy body rhyme - "an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after." Seems to work for me.

  12. Ava - you and my dh should talk. He did another weatherman rant just after I'd finished writing this post. So funny.

  13. Beth and Ava - do I need to separate you pair? You totally crack me up.

    Brilliant rhyme, Jerrica, are you sure you're not an Aussie???

    Erin - snow is not REAL frequent down here. Good to see that barometer has world wide appeal. LOL

  14. Aimee - Thanks Aimee. My kids stare at that gauge at my dads house and shake their heads in confusion. Love it.

    Hi Jane - love the dandelions and your dad's predictions. A golfer would notice weather patterns wouldn't he