Weather ‘Predictions’

Wooly hats and snowThis week I’ve been hinting VERY heavily to my husband that a Storm Glass would make a fantastic Christmas present… (if you’re reading this Nick-I don’t know how much less subtle I could be!)

If you haven’t heard of or seen them, Storm Glasses are the most beautiful instrument for ‘predicting’ the weather. Predicting being in quote marks because I’m not totally sure of its accuracy.

Thought to have first appeared during the 1700s, they were popularised in the 1860s by Admiral Robert FitzRoy. FitzRoy used them amongst other types of barometers whilst sailing the HMS Beagle (yes-the same trip during which Darwin was scribbling away about evolution).

Robert FitzRoy went on to found the Meteorological Office to forecast the weather and recommended that Storm Glasses be used all round the coast of the U.K.

Storm Glasses comprise a glass jar or container filled with a mixture of Camphor, Potassium Nitrate, Ammonium Chloride, distilled water, Ethanol and air.

The idea is that these chemicals combine and react to temperature changes, producing various types of crystals whose shape and distribution then be analysed to predict the weather ahead.

Unfortunately, the Storm Glass is not thought to react to any other factors so cannot predict changes in weather to a useful degree of accuracy.

Reading this made me wonder about other ways of predicting weather and I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite ‘old wives tales’.


I’ve always heard that cows lying down means that rain is coming. I was pretty devastated to find that there is absolutely no basis for this (please someone find some information to contradict this!).

I don’t think I’ll stop using this one though as the probability of rain here in the U.K. is so high that I’m almost guaranteed to be right.

Squirrels’ tails

There is a saying that the bushier a squirrel’s tail the harsher the winter will be.

Is it true? No idea-but it makes sense to me that if they’re already feeling chilly they might puff themselves up a bit!

Hanging Seaweed

In some coastal areas (including Pontypandy from Fireman Sam…) there is a tradition of hanging dried seaweed outside the house. If it remains dry it will be a dry day and if moist, wet weather will follow. I suppose this is all related to air humidity.

Red Sky

‘Red sky at night-shepherd’s delight,

Red sky at morning-shepherd’s warning ‘

This one actually does have some scientific truth.

The idea is that during times of high pressure (which causes good weather) dust is trapped in the air. When light passes through dust it results in a red colour.

However, when the sky is red in the morning, it indicates that dry air has already passed from the west, making way for storms.

Halo around the moon

A saying that I had never heard before is that a halo around the moon indicates the coming of snow or rain.

This is thought to be because the halo is caused by cirrus clouds (which often bring rain and snow). Cirrus clouds are made of ice crystals and as light passes through these, it becomes scattered forming a halo.

Animal behaviour

Finally, watching animals may give some indication of coming weather.

It is said that if birds and squirrels are frantically gathering food then a storm is on its way.

Further to this, if birds start their migration early, it is thought that the cold winter weather will come early.

It’s known that animals are more in-tune with the natural world around them and their own instincts.

It doesn’t matter much to me whether these methods of weather ‘prediction’ are accurate or not.

In an age where we can be told with high accuracy what day we’ll need an umbrella from weeks in advance, and yet many of us are no longer dependent on the weather for survival, it becomes so easy to lose our connection to it.

So, I will continue with my relentless hinting because if nothing else, observing and becoming more aware of the weather’s changes will connect me with the beauty of nature and help me to appreciate it’s life giving and threatening ups and downs.

Do you know of any bizarre or interesting ways of ‘predicting’ the weather?


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