How Did Our Ancestors Predict the Weather?
Determining what the weather will be like later in the day or even tomorrow has been made much easier by the new technology available to us in recent decades. We not only measure air temperature, relative humidity and wind speed, we can see a realistic representation of approaching storms and other weather phenomena using radar and computer software.
The ability to watch our weather patterns and plan our lives accordingly has only been available to us in the past few decades. For many years our ancestors had to use different tools and indicators to predict weather.
One of the “tools” our ancestors used (before electricity, radar, computers etc.) was the animal kingdom. Roosters crowing at night were often thought to be predicting rain for the next day. A chorus of frogs could mean the same thing. We all know about the groundhog and February 2 of each year. If the critter emerges and sees his shadow he will retreat into his burrow for six more weeks of winter.
In earlier centuries people also looked to the stars for indications of what might be in store, weather-wise. Many people still look to the Big Dipper for a sign. It is said that if the constellation is pointing downward (as if pouring out water) it’s going to rain. Some say that if you see and hear birds during rainy weather it will continue to rain for awhile.
There may be something to a few of these natural signs. One of the more obvious indicators is the color and shape of clouds. Of course, a dark cloud that looks thick is probably brining rain. After all, the color and thickness are caused by heavy water content in that cloud. Certain types of clouds form before a storm front. If you see fluffy clouds (cumulus) low to the ground, fair weather is probably ahead. In fact, the science of clouds includes a number of ways to predict rain, fair weather, wind and so on.
Our ancestors looked to animals for indications of weather change on a daily basis but they also observed animals for signs of major storms and life-threatening events such as earthquakes. Animals such as horses and cows might be more sensitive to ground vibrations and slight changes in conditions than humans are. This may have saved a lot of lives in China and a few other countries when people saw animals behaving in an abnormal manner. This allowed people to make preparations for an earthquake when they had no other indication of the approaching event.
One weather indicator that doesn’t fail is “Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.” Some add, “Red sky at night, sailors delight.” If you talk to someone with experience aboard ship in the open ocean they will probably tell you that you can “take this saying to the bank.” Clouds full of moisture are visible and red in the morning as they approach from the west.
In addition to these weather indicators, some of our ancestors kept a close watch (or feel) on the soil under certain plants or trees. For them this was a reliable sign of the long-term weather patterns.