Weather Sayings and Their Meanings

"Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning."

January 23, 2020
Red Sky

Ever heard the saying, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight”? Long before meteorologists reported the weather, people made forecasts based on their observations of the sky, animals, and nature. Here are some weather sayings—and what they mean.

Many of the traditional sayings they used, called proverbs, are surprisingly accurate. Try out some old-fashioned forecasting—that still works today!

Weather Sayings and Meanings

“Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.”

A reddish sunset means that the air is dusty and dry. Since weather in North American latitudes usually moves from west to east, a red sky at sunset means dry weather—good for sailing—is moving east. Conversely, a reddish sunrise means that dry air from the west has already passed over us on their way easy, clearing the way for a storm to move in.

“The higher the clouds, the finer the weather.”

If you spot wispy, thin clouds up where jet airplanes fly, expect a spell of pleasant weather.

Keep an eye, however, on the smaller puff clouds (cumulus), especially if it’s in the morning or early afternoon. If the rounded tops of these clouds, which have flat bases, grow higher than the one cloud’s width, then there’s a chance of a thunderstorm forming.

“Clear Moon, frost soon.”

When the night sky is clear, Earth’s surface cools rapidly—there is no cloud cover to keep the heat in. If the night is clear enough to see the Moon and the temperature drops enough, frost will form. Expect a chilly morning!

“When clouds appear like towers, the Earth is refreshed by frequent showers.”

When you spy large, white clouds that look like cauliflower or castles in the sky, there is probably lots of dynamic weather going on inside. Innocent clouds look like billowy cotton, not towers. If the clouds start to swell and take on a gray tint, they’re probably turning into thunderstorms. Watch out!

“Rainbow in the morning gives you fair warning.”

A rainbow in the morning indicates that a shower is in your near future.

“Ring around the moon? Rain real soon.”

A ring around the moon usually indicates an advancing warm front, which means precipitation. Under those conditions, high, thin clouds get lower and thicker as they pass over the moon. Ice crystals are reflected by the moon’s light, causing a halo to appear.

“Rain foretold, long last. Short notice, soon will pass.”

If you find yourself toting an umbrella around for days “just in case,” rain will stick around for several hours when it finally comes. The gray overcast dominating the horizon means a large area is affected. Conversely, if you get caught in a surprise shower, it’s likely to be short-lived.

Observe the sky and see if these weather proverbs work for you. Do you know of any others? Tell us in the comments below!


The Old Farmer's Almanac for Kids, Volume 1


Reader Comments

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Directions of Clouds Indicate Weather?

This morning I read what Jesus said in Luke 12:54-56, "When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?” Funny thing, I never paid attention to clouds rising from the west bringing rain. I guess that's why I am here. Thank you, especially the person mentioning about the ring around the moon. I heard that a long time ago, but couldn't remember the meaning. Fair weather ahead to everyone.



Rain at the mill

Fog climbs the hill will send water down to the mill.

Rain at the mill

Fog climbs the hill will send water down to the mill.

Sunshine and Rain

If when it is raining and the sun comes out, it will rain again tomorrow. My great grandfather used to say this and I’ve always found it to be true. Even if the rain only lasts a few minutes.

Weather sayings

My grandmother used to say if the moss is thick on the north side of the trees, it will be a cold winter and if the wooly worms (caterpillars) had thick hair on their bodies, it would be very cold that winter. Flocks of tiny little birds, she called them snow birds, meant snow was coming, the more birds, the deeper the snow. She also said if you see a sun dog out beside the sun, there would be rain within 24/48 hours. There is also the persimmon seeds, if you crack open a persimmon seed and see a spoon shape, there will be snow that winter and if you see a knife shape, ice storms will come and if there is a fork shape, it will be a mild winter. Most of her old sayings were true. Our local, thinks he knows it all meteorologist was talking about a drought and no end was in sight. I noticed the leaves turned upside down on the trees and then saw a sun dog. I sent him a message and told him it would rain within 24/48 hours and he laughed at me. In that short time he sent me a message apologizing because it was raining and it rained for several days.

weather saying

When the night has a fever it cries in the morning.

My grandmother taught me this

Here in Texas we have red harvester ants. Their nests are easy to spot, since the area around the entrance will have no plant life and be littered with tiny stones (they've removed while digging.)
My grandmother always said that if the red ant bed is flat, the winter will be mild.
But if the red ant bed has a mound-like grade around the entrance, the winter will be hard.

Mare's Tails and Mackerel Scales

That's the one I heard the most other than red sky at night..."Mare's tails and mackerel scales make sea captains furl their sails." There's usually bad weather within 24 hours.


This is more an observation, but I noticed since I was a teen, that when my knees acted up, (normally one, then both) you can bet their will be snow. Even today at 35 it still rings true. Although now it also covers rain.

big winds at june 23 2020

hi we will have big winds in 2021 it will be like the storm called teddy.

Thunder in January

Thunder in January flood in June

Going to rain

If all the cow are laying down will bring rain to the town. The tighter the animals laying together the sooner the rains will come.

Fog and Rain

Fog climb the hill will send water down to the mill

Winter Fog

Winter Fog will freeze the hair on a dog

Whether it's weather

Whenever the wind gusts reach twenty mph or faster in Kingman, Arizona, three days later there are killer tornadoes in Tornado Alley showing in the evening news broadcasts. Also, out here you can literally see the great Thunderbird of Native American lore. The clouds look like a bird with a long neck, crested head, bowed beak, sweeping wings to the horizons, and the tail is the downpouring rainstorm. Farther east the bird's neck gets shorter giving it the famous 'Eagle' look.

Wind and Weather

A clear sky of fleckless blue means storms within a day or two.

Wind and Weather

When the wind is in the north
narry a man will then go forth.
When the wind is in the east
'tis good for neither man nor beast.
When the wind is in the south
it blows the bait in the fish's mouth.
But when the wind is in the west
that is when it's the very best.

Rain when the sun is out

A Missouri saying and heard a stranger confirm it from Georgia : when it rains even though the sun is out we say “the devil is beating his wife”. Odd, yes.


When bones and bunions begin to ache, expect the clouds to fill the lake.

weather folklore

My mother always said "When the ground gets wet, it will rain" Think about that!


How about Sun Dogs?


This isn't a saying, but now I know what my MawMaw and PawPaw Burnett meant when they said 'It's gonna rain, I can feel it in my bones" (even on a sunny warm day). That night or the next day, IT RAINED. I can feel it "In MY Bones" too now with arthritis (or Rheumatism as some had called it). When the Low Fronts and High Fronts start moving and the Barometer starts to change either going up or down, it makes me hurt so bad that I'm thinking of moving to where it's warm and little rain. California sounds good now, minus the earthquakes.

Weather Sayings

From my Dad: It always rains after a long dry spell. If it doesn't rain within three days of Wednesday, it won't rain that week. Evening red and morning gray, send a sailor on his way- evening gray and morning red bring the rain upon his head.

Wind and Weather

My mom, a Vermonter, had two sayings that always proved true:

A clear sky of fleckless blue breeds storms within a day or two.

When the wind is in the north nary a man will then go forth.
When the wind is in the south it blows the bait in the fishes mouth.
When the wind is in the east 'tis good for neither man nor beast.
But when the wind is in the west, THAT is when it's the very best.

mackerel skh, maxkerel sky,

mackerel skh, maxkerel sky,
Never too wet, never too dry.

Oar fish on the surface, or beached means an imminent seabed quake with all that that entails.

Supposedly lots of berries on the trees means a harsh winter coming, and vice versa , but it doesn't seem to noticably work out that way. At least not in Southern U.K.


when you have your first snow and can see rabbit track check the calendar and what every day it is that is how many traces of snow that winter. a lady in Kentucky told me this and she was right.

weather signs

When the leaves on the trees turn backwards rain comes soon afterwards.

Big snow = little snow.

Big snow = little snow. Little snow = big snow. The size of the snowflakes coming down determines how much of a storm it is.

clouds and weather

My Mother always says long straight white clouds is a sign that in the next couple days we will have strong winds.