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Do it yourself forecasting
August 5, 2010 9:53 PM   Subscribe


 
Wonderful. Some of these don't work for those of us who live on the coast part of the West Coast, as there is ocean to the West rather than land, but by and large the forecasting signs are good.
posted by msjen at 9:59 PM on August 5, 2010


Altocumulus clouds: Like mackerel scales...

*Starts looking for mackerel*
posted by dirigibleman at 10:06 PM on August 5, 2010


I love this! Is this available as print somwhere? My nieces and nephews are always amazed at my weather prognositaction (I'm an Aircraft Dispatcher by trade) and I would love to have something like this to give to them to put on their walls.
posted by KingEdRa at 10:06 PM on August 5, 2010


'Altocumulus clouds: Like mackerel scales'

My Grandad always said, "Mackerel sky, not three days dry."
posted by puny human at 10:15 PM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Customers who bought this item also bought this.
posted by klausman at 10:19 PM on August 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Red Skies at 1982.

My rule of thumb is: if none of the forecasting folks (US Weather Service, The Weather Channel, Accu-Weather, the NON-terrorist Weather Underground) are going over 50% on chance of rain, then it ain't gonna rain. Period. Not a drop. But that's just the way of life here where "been drought so long, the bottom of the rain barrel looks like up". However, I did personally bring on a few weeks of heavy rain to my region last autumn when the sunroof of my old car broke from its mounting and flew off on the freeway, never to be found. Big hole in the top of my car? Torrential storm guaranteed!

Also watch out when cows do this. 100% chance of Cyriak.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:23 PM on August 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Very cool. I always heard another old wives' tale: if it's raining while the sun is shining, then it'll probably be rainy the next day, too. Don't know how true that is, though.
posted by zardoz at 10:27 PM on August 5, 2010


On the east coast of the US, I can tell when rain is coming because my knuckles hurt.

Also off the northeast coast of the US, the salty types will tell you a reliable indicator of rain, if you're out fishing, is an unusual amount of pebbles in the stomachs of your catch.
posted by cucumber at 10:29 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting this. Learning how to read the weather was a huge part of Outdoor School (outdoor education program in Multnomah County, OR) and it's great to see a guide like this. I think being able to look at the natural world and make broad statements about what's going on (and what will happen) is key to living a life that isn't completely separated from nature. I definitely always try to make a note of where the swallows are catching bugs in the evening; that really is a good barometer (and for some reason impresses people who have never taken the time to notice before).
posted by OverlappingElvis at 10:51 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anybody remember the "weather prediction station" gag / novelty thingies that were simply a rock suspended on a string in an open frame with a little plaque that said, "If this rock is wet, it's raining. If it's swinging back and forth, it's windy..."
posted by XMLicious at 10:51 PM on August 5, 2010


Mackerel sky. Mare's tails.
WikiHow has an article on predicting the weather with many of the same pointers. (and the secret #11: just make it up) It's nowhere near as visually appealing, despite having some photos of clouds.

XMLicious; yes. There's one in front of the ranger station in Humboldt Redwoods State Park in Northern California. Now, if only someone could develop a portable rock...
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 10:56 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like condensed infographics like this, they remind me of the boiled-down cheat study notes I would cook up in school.

But, and please correct me, smarter people... aren't items like "easterly winds can indicate an approaching storm... westerly the opposite" a bit, um... occicentric?

Northern-hemispherist?

posted by rokusan at 11:17 PM on August 5, 2010


I like predicting weather here in the Las Vegas valley.

Sun. Lots of it. Get a parasol.
posted by daq at 11:29 PM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The graphic is chock full of decent rules of thumb that will get you by even if you don't know the usual weather patterns in your particular location. Nice link.

XMLicious wrote: "Anybody remember the "weather prediction station" gag / novelty thingies that were simply a rock suspended on a string in an open frame with a little plaque that said, "If this rock is wet, it's raining. If it's swinging back and forth, it's windy...""

They used to sell things like that at some of the gift shops on old US-71 in northwest Arkansas where it goes over the Boston Mountains. The ones I remember typically had 5 different predictions. The one I liked the best was always the last one on the list: "Rock Missing: Tornado"
posted by wierdo at 12:33 AM on August 6, 2010


"A rainbow in the east around sunset means that the rain is on the way out."

As opposed to what? A rainbow in the west at sunset? That really would be weird.
posted by charlesminus at 12:36 AM on August 6, 2010


I thought cows lying down meant they were chewing the cud.

Also, wind direction in the UK doesn't seem to mean anything. It is nearly always windy here. Average wind speed is about 15mph.
posted by marienbad at 2:17 AM on August 6, 2010


In these islands I pay a lot more attention to north vs south winds than east vs west. Rain is usually the result of a change rather than a specific wind direction, and southerlies are cold while northerlies are warm. Westerly winds prevail, easterlies mean something weird and unusual is going to happen. Deciduous trees are rare. Most of us live on the coasts and it's humid enough for the salt to clump everywhere north of Cook Strait. The linked image is interesting but hopelessly parochial.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:34 AM on August 6, 2010


Double rainbow - means there's wet coming out of your head.
posted by a non e mouse at 3:22 AM on August 6, 2010


They left out my favorite: If you eat persimmons and you get the seed out of it and if it’s in the form of a shovel, that means it’s going to be a heavy snow because you need the shovel to shovel the snow.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:07 AM on August 6, 2010


If you see a rainbow in the dark, it means there's no sign of the morning coming and you've been left on your own.
posted by drezdn at 5:11 AM on August 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


I always heard another old wives' tale: if it's raining while the sun is shining, then it'll probably be rainy the next day, too. Don't know how true that is, though.

It means that the devil is beating his wife.

While growing up in Northern Michigan, every winter morning I would look outside and see how everyone's woodstove smoke was behaving. If it went straight up in a perfect vertical column, it meant that the day would be colder than I could ever hope to handle. It also proved to be an excellent downer when I was working outside at a sawmill in the late '80s.
posted by NoMich at 5:12 AM on August 6, 2010


I've only found one reliable way of predicting what the weather's going to do:

If we're in the middle of a move, with all of our worldly goods sitting on a flatbed trailer/pickup truck bed out front, chances of rain becomes 100 percent.

Hasn't failed yet.
posted by metagnathous at 5:22 AM on August 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


marienbad, the rough rule of thumb my dad taught me for the UK and wind is: if it's coming from the north east, it's coming from northern Europe, so it's going to be dry and cold; if it's coming from the south east, it's coming from southern Europe so it's going to be dry and warm; from the south west, it's from the Atlantic, so it's going to be warm and wet; and if it's the north west it's coming from the northern Atlantic, so it's going to be cold and wet.

Most of our wind comes from the west or south west, so we get lots of rain and not a great amount of cold. yay!
posted by Helga-woo at 5:24 AM on August 6, 2010


My rule of thumb is: if none of the forecasting folks (US Weather Service, The Weather Channel, Accu-Weather, the NON-terrorist Weather Underground) are going over 50% on chance of rain, then it ain't gonna rain. Period. Not a drop.

That is assuredly true in central California. On the other hand, if all of those folks say 20-30% in Middle Tennessee, then you better bring your umbrella that day or else get dumped on.
posted by blucevalo at 5:42 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you see a red wheelbarrow beside some white chickens, it'll probably be glazed with rainwater.
posted by horsewithnoname at 5:54 AM on August 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


This is great. St Alia - Do you know the source of the image? I'm forwarding it to a couple of teachers I know, and they'll probably want to know who holds the copyright before they consider using it.
posted by metaBugs at 6:22 AM on August 6, 2010


I've been trying to teach my transplanted husband for five years now what tornado weather is like so he'll know when to take cover. It doesn't seem to be taking. ("We need to go home, this is a tornado storm." "It's not a tornado storm, there's no weather alert." "I promise your phone will text you the alert within half an hour." "But there's no -- oh, wait, there it is.") Combination of cloud patterns, wind patterns, and the "feel" of the air ... but mostly living in the Midwest your whole life so you know what they look like. :)

If it's bitterly cold and brightly sunny and clear, it's too cold to snow, and it won't snow until the wind brings a change in the air -- usually it has to get a little warmer and wetter before it can snow (I think it has to get warmer TO get wetter). I mean, technically, it's never "too cold to snow," but for all intents and purposes it's too cold for it to snow enough impede your driving, which is really the key point. These are the best days for long-distance winter driving, especially if it's dead still.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:27 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anybody remember the "weather prediction station" gag / novelty thingies that were simply a rock suspended on a string in an open frame with a little plaque that said, "If this rock is wet, it's raining. If it's swinging back and forth, it's windy..."

Also, it keeps tigers away.
posted by inigo2 at 6:28 AM on August 6, 2010


Or, as my uncle used to say,

Red sky at night - sailor's delight
Red sky in morning - sailor take warning!

posted by BlueMetal at 6:33 AM on August 6, 2010


The best source for random infographics I know of happens to be 4Chan. Yes, I know. But I have a large collection that I've picked up from them, including this one. The /b/tards come up with some incredible stuff, it's worth taking a look if you can handle the rest of it.
posted by fingerbang at 6:44 AM on August 6, 2010


Or as my ol' grandad used to say:

Red sky at night, sailor's delight
Sheep drowned in the morning, global warming.

With apologies to Punt and Dennis
posted by MuffinMan at 6:53 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


In googling to look for the source I found this.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:54 AM on August 6, 2010


Plants release their waste in a low pressure atmosphere generating a smell like compost and indicating an upcoming rain.

That's why it smells like dirt before it rains!!! But it doesn't answer why snow has that sparkier crisper smell, and thus I am sad.
posted by edbles at 7:01 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cats tend to clean behind their ears before a rain.

This is useless. My cat immediately starts licking himself when he's up to no good and wants to act all casual, which is everyday.
posted by edbles at 7:04 AM on August 6, 2010


In my area, precipitation seems to be directly correlated to my motivation for doing yard-work; if I am completely exhausted from a week of getting my ass kicked, it will be beautiful and inviting outside, where if I've managed to find excuses to avoid it for long enough that my neighbors are giving me dirty looks and I commit to spending the whole afternoon on the project it will absolutely be pouring rain for the whole weekend and possibly the next one as well.

I'd like to say this is just confirmation bias, but sadly I suspect that the real truth is that the evil cabal that controls the weather just doesn't like me much.
posted by quin at 7:43 AM on August 6, 2010


In the aviation biz, there is only one tool needed for checking the weather. It is a small card, roughly the size of a playing card. It is colored blue and has a hole in the middle of it.

Place the card in your hand and extend your arm towards the sky. Look through the hole in the card. If the color of the sky matches the color of the card, go flying.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:25 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Alright team listen up, hail and tornadoes for quin this weekend. Fucker thinks he can just talk about the weather cabal without consequences.
posted by Babblesort at 8:46 AM on August 6, 2010


Cats tend to clean behind their ears before a rain.

This is useless.


Yeah, my cats clean behind their ears every day, and it hasn't rained since May.

Our weather here has been remarkably easy to predict this summer (not that that's unusual): Foggy in the morning on the coast and inland valleys; highs from 62 coastside to 90 well inland.
posted by rtha at 10:13 AM on August 6, 2010


Babblesort: You forgot to use the official channels again, you're now on semi-permanent warning...oh shit.
posted by edbles at 10:44 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also: Apparently snow smells like Nitrous Oxide?
posted by edbles at 10:52 AM on August 6, 2010


Dammit! And I was already on double secret probation too. :-(
posted by Babblesort at 11:26 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


For folks in the Pacific NW, there's a section on sky-watching to forecast the weather in Cliff Mass's book, which is damn fascinating.
posted by epersonae at 11:27 AM on August 6, 2010


This is very cool, though I wish there as a West Coast version. I know about Mare's Tails and Mackerel Skies, and that is a pretty good indicator of an approaching front. I also used to live in a house with a wind chime that only rang with the approaching storm. IIRC, it was on the SE side of the house, and wind was usually from the NW.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:39 AM on August 6, 2010


I've seen studies showing that in most cases it's due to confirmation bias, but as someone with pretty bad arthritis I can usually "call" the weather pretty accurately.
posted by jtron at 12:12 PM on August 6, 2010


I prefer my low tech way.
Lick finger, hold said finger high up for a second, make weather related statement.
posted by special-k at 12:52 PM on August 6, 2010


Cool link, although I could probably nitpick the explanations on some of them (e.g. smoke dispersal has more to do with winds and how stable the atmosphere is, not if there is low pressure). But you can learn a lot by just being weather aware. And yes, a lot of the rules of thumb are location dependent.

Eyebrows, the "too cold to snow" thing is because the dry air and clear skies you need for it to get extremely cold come under high pressure. And in general, the big snow storms need low pressure systems and a lot of moisture to work with.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to call the cabal meeting to order.
posted by weathergal at 2:34 PM on August 6, 2010


If it's bitterly cold and brightly sunny and clear, it's too cold to snow

I used to think this too, but there is no such thing as "too cold to snow." It depends where you are, and whether you feel like playing snow-driving-poker that particular day ("I got a full house! I guess ain't no one going anywhere!")

In my case, I can see a Great Lake (Erie) out my window. In the first half of winter (roughly December-middle of February), it does indeed get all crystalline and sunny and lovely...but then 3 hours later, you can't drive out of your own driveway, let alone road-tripping. (I mean, I can, but...) The lakes provide the moisture, even though the moisture is about 33 degrees. Once the wind shifts even the slightest from the S to the W (or picks up), we are screwed and chances are that my work will have a snow day! Yay! (and it can be -15; it will still snow). It's just weird geography and fluid dynamics (a term I might or might not have learned more about today while drifting about on the aforementioned lake in a kayak, wondering why the waves were all going one way and I was going another).

St. Alia, thanks for posting this!
posted by deep thought sunstar at 5:51 PM on August 6, 2010


It means that the devil is beating his wife.

That's what I heard, too, as a Southern kid, and if you heard it in Michigan, that's interesting. No one I've met up North seems to have heard that expression, and people look horrified if I say it. There are a number of more cheerful expressions here although of course I can't vouch for them.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:20 PM on August 6, 2010


Also: Apparently snow smells like Nitrous Oxide?
posted by edbles at 1:52 PM on August 6 [+] [!]


I scratched and sniffed the bold blue text on my monitor but I can't smell anything.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:06 PM on August 6, 2010


This sounds silly, but every winter I occasionally get phone calls from my family asking if I smell snow. Because under certain weather conditions, if snow is on the way, I can indeed smell it. Whether it smells like Nitrous Oxide or not, I have no clue.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:53 PM on August 6, 2010


When I lived in places where it snowed, I could smell snow, too. I thought everybody did. (In New Hampshire and Maine, everybody probably can.)
posted by rtha at 7:58 PM on August 6, 2010


I'd like to add rustling of leaves as an indicator of rain. If it's windy but you don't hear the trees, it's not going to rain yet, but once you start hearing the trees, it won't be long now.

Everything else jives with my own experience, although I never realized the smell one before.
posted by furtive at 8:58 PM on August 6, 2010


But it doesn't answer why snow has that sparkier crisper smell, and thus I am sad.

Don't be sad! The (impending) snow smells like that because it's cold, and thus there is very little movement in the air. You know how heat=energy? Well, when there's no heat, the air isn't going have the energy, as it were, to carry the scent of the plant to your nose (also, the plant is probably dead anyway). That makes a difference - some of the "cold scent" is actually a lack of scents. it's pure air. That's why it gets described as "clean" all the time. It is literally clean air, without all the delicious vegetative scents of summer.

damn, I almost am looking forward to all the snowstorms now.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 3:51 AM on August 7, 2010


Hang a rock on a string.

The rock is hot? Sunny.
The rock is cold? Winter.
The rock is wet? Rain.
The rock is white? Snow.
The rock is swinging? Windy.
The rock is gone? Tornado, get to cover.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:49 AM on August 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


"(and it can be -15; it will still snow)"

-15F isn't cold enough for it to be too cold to snow. That starts down around -35F.
posted by Mitheral at 10:38 AM on August 10, 2010


Don't be sad! The (impending) snow smells like that because it's cold, and thus there is very little movement in the air. You know how heat=energy? Well, when there's no heat, the air isn't going have the energy, as it were, to carry the scent of the plant to your nose (also, the plant is probably dead anyway). That makes a difference - some of the "cold scent" is actually a lack of scents. it's pure air. That's why it gets described as "clean" all the time. It is literally clean air, without all the delicious vegetative scents of summer.

This doesn't explain the difference in smell between an "about to dump 4 ft of snow on your ass 30 degree January day" and a "Christ it is fucking cold why did people make a city here 10 degree day in February". Seriously considering using an Ask on this.
posted by edbles at 11:34 AM on August 10, 2010


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