"Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning."
November 12, 2021
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!