Weather Forecasting; History And Accuracy

Through observation, meteorologists can predict a lot about the weather, tips on how accurate these predictions can be.

In the past, man has depended upon close observations of nature to forecast the weather, because there were no scientific methods of reading weather patterns, like there are today.

So man relied on a keen eye for natural signs which indicated change. Shepherds and sailors, farmers, and even hunters observed and connected the changes in nature with patterns of weather. Cloud movements and sky color would be indicators of when to plant and harvest. Hunters learned by watching animals and insects. These observations were passed down through generations, and are known as weather lore.

For example, the saying, "A ring around the sun or moon, means rain or snow coming soon." How accurate is this bit of weather lore? Well, lets take the "moon" first.

Since man has been fascinated by the moon throughout the ages, he has learned a thing or two about it. So a ring around the moon, he found out many moons ago, actually does mean precipitation. This is because cirrus clouds usually proceed low pressure systems bearing moisture. There are ice crystals in these clouds and they refract light. So the next time you see a ring around the moon, be prepared for rain or snow soon.

With the ring around the sun, it's not quite that simple. If you look up at the sun at midday and see a ring around it, expect some change within 12 to 24 hours. The catch is-if the weather is clear when you see the ring, stormy weather is, indeed, on its way. But if the weather is dreary at the time of the ring, fair weather is about to arrive.

How about the saying, "If the moon's face is red, water ahead?" This is a pretty reliable piece of weather lore. The red color is due to some dust being pushed ahead of a low pressure front bringing moisture.

The sky has also been used as a weather predictor for thousands of years. "Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky in the morning, sailor take warning," is a pretty accurate forecast of things to come, they say. A red sky at sunset usually indicates dry weather because the sun is shining through some dust particles being pushed ahead by a high pressure system bringing in dry air.

On the other hand, red sky in the morning usually means moisture is on the way. Once again, the sky is red because of the dust particles being pushed on out, but this time by an approaching low pressure system bringing in moisture.

Clouds are accurate weather predictors. Each type of cloud is caused by specific actions in nature building up to a type of weather. Light, scattered clouds alone in a clear sky usually mean strong winds. Clouds lowering and thickening always bring deteriorating weather; while clouds increasing in numbers, moving rapidly across the sky means be prepared to take cover at a moments notice! But if the sky is clear blue to the West, and clouds dot the afternoon sky, it means fair weather is in store.

"A rainbow in the morning, is the shepherd's warning. A rainbow at night is the shepherd's delight."

Rainbows play an essential part in weather predictions. A rainbow is an obvious indicator of rain as it refracts the light and breaks it down into colors. Rainbows in the morning to the west usually indicate approaching rain. But a rainbow at sunset usually means the rain is about to depart and fair weather is on the way.

Animals have the ability to predict the weather. Dogs and cats can sense when a tornado or earthquake is about to take place. Pigs and squirrels gather more debris to insulate themselves when cold weather is approaching. And they say that a true indication of winter is an animals heavy coat and how much food he stores for the winter.

Even plants can forecast the weather. The rhododendron closes its leaves when cold weather approaches. But as the temperature rises, their leaves begin to unfurl. Dandelion, chickweed, bindweed, clover, wild indigo and the tulip all fold their petals just before rain. Exposed seaweed on rocks swells and rejuvenates in the high humidity just before rainy weather.

There are hundreds of old sayings, based on nature, on forecasting the weather, some more accurate than others. But even modern forecasters are only about 50 percent accurate despite all the scientific tools available to them.

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