Before smartphones and the National Weather Service, there was Grandma’s Knee


I thought my grandmother was a psychic. One day in the mid-90s, in Richmond, Virginia, where I grew up, the temperature soared above 100 degrees as it often does in the height of summer. Everything seemed to melt under the sweltering heat of that day. My grandmother looked down and began massaging her knees vigorously, like a fortune teller rubbing a crystal ball. “It’s windy,” she said, staring at me.

She was right.

I later learned that my grandmother was not a psychic. Instead, she’s been using the pain in her joints to predict rain, and it’s phenomenal It has been studied extensively, with inconclusive results. Before humans relied on technology, we used our senses—including observing animal behavior and cloud shapes—to help predict the weather.

Over time, these observations have been pieced together to form history, said Mark Wysocki, a New York State climatologist and professor of meteorology at Cornell University. He said, “People will either start to communicate these things verbally or, as civilization begins to develop more, people will start writing these things down.”

Sandy Duncan, managing editor of Farmers’ Almanac, Where the Weather Lore It is still discussed regularlyHe likens passing weather lore over time to a telephone game, adding that some of them may have been altered in order to rhyme.

Historically, human survival, especially that of sailors and fishermen, depended in large part on the weather. One of the most recognizable tales, “Clouds of Mackerel in the Sky, Expect Wetter Than Dry,” can be traced back at least a few hundred years to sailors.

“At sea, there was no communication at that time, no mobile phone,” said Mr. Whisocki. “So sailors had to rely on sky conditions, wind direction, and waves.” Ship captains will make their notes in logs, which will be shared.

The science behind the phrase is solid. Clouds that look like mackerel scales are called altocumulus clouds, Mr Wysocki said, and they form before a big storm is approaching. “If you’re seeing something like this coming, that’s kind of a warning sign that we have an unstable atmosphere,” he said.

Mr Wysocki said weather traditions related to sky color and cloud shapes can be explained by science. “Red skies at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in morning, sailor’s warning,” is generally true. When a red sky is observed at sunset, sunlight travels through a high concentration of dust particles, usually a sign of high pressure and settled air coming from the west, According to the Library of Congress. When the color of the sunrise is red, it means that good weather has already passed, which indicates that a storm may be moving.

Tales based on birds, insects, and other types of animals are often less scientific and can be misleading.

In the Midwest and Northeast, the woolly bear caterpillar is sometimes used to predict the harshness of the coming winter. According to weather lore, the longer the black bands of the caterpillar, the harsher the winter; The opposite would be expected if the mid-brown band were wider. National Weather Service Debunk this myth. The colors on a woolly bear’s caterpillar are directly related to how long it has been feeding, its age, and its species. Similarly, efforts to use groundhogs in early February to predict another six weeks of winter or early spring been debunked.

“Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry cause snow to gather in haste” is another well-known proverb about the weather, but Mr. Wyscoki said it was wrong: perhaps the conditions were simply ideal for the oak trees to produce more acorns, giving the appearance of squirrels congregating more. He said of seemingly related phenomena: “People see them once, and don’t come back to check 20 or 40 times.” “You have to have multiple experiences, multiple observations in order to get this thing going.”

Farmers also once relied on these sayings, some of which were printed in almanacs. “When we started the Farmers’ Almanac in 1818, we gave weather forecasts but they were more general than they are now,” Duncan said.

The change from winter to spring regularly brings severe weather to large parts of the United States. In early March, a series of strong storms killed at least 12 Across Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

“I think we’re in for a pretty severe weather season,” said John Sirlin, a storm chaser for more than 30 years.

Mr. Sirlin, 47, lives in Arizona and prefers to chase storms on the Northern Upper Plains. He is familiar with weather lore and regularly uses baseline observations, along with technology, to predict weather behavior.

“There are so many different things you can learn about the weather just by using your senses,” he said, including paying attention to wind direction and noticing the changing shapes of clouds, which can reveal the stability of the atmosphere.

But this information must be read properly to assess potential dangers such as hail and tornadoes, or, in the case of my grandmother and her sore joints, thunderstorms.

“The really cool thing about atmosphere is that it gives you clues and clues about all these different things if you learn to pick them up and interpret them properly,” he said.

This spring, he and his storm chasers fanned out across the United States in anticipation of severe weather. Mr. Sirlin has a “lifelong passion and obsession with the weather” and notes that he is always learning.

“Thirty years later, every time I go out, I always learn something new and pick up something different.”


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