Ask Josh: Weather Folklore

Can you really predict the weather by looking at the sky and a Woolly Bear? Meteorologist Josh Fitzpatrick has the answers!

Believe it or not, you can predict the weather to a certain degree by observing nature and the sky above.

There's a lot of weather folklore out there and I'm going to go over a few and see if there's any truth to them.

The first one is the popular saying "red sky by morning, sailor take warning.  Red sky at night, sailor's delight."

The rhyme works in most of the United States where storms generally move from west to east. The "red", which refers to the sky overhead, is caused by the sunlight reflecting off clouds.

For a red sky in the morning, the eastern horizon has to be clear while clouds are moving in from the west. Since most storms come from the west, a storm is probably heading your direction.

For a red sky at night, clouds have to have moved away from the western horizon, heading east. With the storm moving east, clear skies are coming your way.

There is an important covet to the Red sky in the morning proverb. The poem generally only applies when a storm is on the way. Red skies can be caused by non-storm clouds. Also this rhyme can't predict thunderstorms that develop in an afternoon when the morning has been clear.

Here's a perfect case study where this saying came true.

The photo below was taken on Halloween morning by one of my e-Reporters in Kanawha County of a rare morning rainbow.  Notice the "red" sky to the right or east of the rainbow.  It rained nearly the entire day!  So sailor take warning.

The picture below was taken at Harris River Front Park in Huntington the same day in the evening.  Notice the "red" sky at night.  The following day was nice and sunny!  So sailor's delight.

I'm sure many of you have seen at one point or another a ring or halo around the moon or sun like in the photo below.

The ring or halo is cause by high, thin ice crystal clouds known at cirrus clouds.  They move out ahead of storm systems and are usually an indication of a change in the weather is coming.

The most popular folklore this time of year has to do with the Woolly Bear.  Some of you may call it a Woolly Worm and believe if can predict what kind of winter we may have.

The truth behind the woolly worms/bear's band length actually has more to do with age than with predicting the weather. As the caterpillar prepares to overwinter, the caterpillar molts, becoming less black and more reddish-brown as it ages.  If you see an all black Woolly Bear then it's NOT a Woolly Bear but a totally different Caterpillar.

Be sure to post your comments below.  I'd love to hear from you!

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