The local Wise Woman or Cunning Man would have a pretty good grasp
on predicting the weather. So would local farmers, if they paid attention
to their landscape, which, given it was their livelihood, I should imagine
was the case! Get to know the weather patterns in your area, and make
notes so that you can compare year upon year. Build up your own little
system, as well as research meteorology. Here is some weather lore that
applies to Britain which I use to help determine what is on its way.
Clouds are not only very pretty to look at, but can also tell us a great
deal about what is happening in the skies, and what is to come. There
are four types of clouds: stratus (layered), nimbus (rain clouds), cumulus
(tall white or grey) and cirrus (very high and wispy). These form into
three groups based on altitude and can help us predict the weather.
Low clouds are divided into:
• Cumulus: fluffy white clouds with rounded tops and flat bottoms.
These usually indicate fair weather.
• Cumulonimbus: very tall, heaped clouds like grand castles in the
sky. Light on the top and dark on the bottom. If you see one in the
shape of an anvil, rain is definitely on the way. These clouds can
indicate heavy rain and approaching thunderstorms, even hail.
• Stratus: low clouds that block out the sun or moon, either white or
grey. In coastal areas or in hilly/mountainous regions, there can be
a lot of rain.
• Stratocumulus: sometimes in grey sheets or like a large, lumpy
grey pillow that covers the sky. To predict the weather with these,
we need to look at which way the wind is blowing. If it blows from
the north, it will be clear and cool. From the south, there will be
more rain. From the east, expect storms and from the west clearing
skies and slightly warmer temperatures.
Mid-level or medium clouds are divided into: • Nimbostratus: thick, dark
skies with low clouds that have persistent and sometimes heavy rain for
long periods of time • Altostratus: sun is visible through a hazy veil,
white or grey uniform cloud. Periods of continuous rain or even snow on
the way.
• Altocumulus: the famous, rippled “mackerel sky” which provides a
brilliant display early mornings or evenings. Cold weather is on the
way in winter, and in summer expect thunderstorms.
High clouds are divided into:
• Cirrostratus: Thin layer of cloud, sometimes hiding sun or moon,
and often producing a “halo” effect. When these thicken a warm
front is approaching. When the halo effect is this high in the sky,
no rain on the way.
• Cirrocumulus: Small, wispy white clouds that indicate fair but
cooler weather.
• Cirrus: Very white, very wispy clouds made of ice crystals that
occur in fair weather, so no rain on the way.
Another trick which I use, as from my back garden I have a great view of
all the air traffic passing along the East coast of England, is to watch the
contrails left behind from the jets flying off to distant shores. If these
trails dissipate quickly, it means that the air is dry, and usually will stay
so for the near future. The longer these trails remain, the more moisture
is in the air, which might indicate an approaching period of wet
Here are some wonderful folk sayings to help predict the weather.
Some of them are true, some of them not quite so much. Give them a try
and see for yourself!
Red sky at night, sailors’ delight.
Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.
Flies will swarm before a storm.
When smoke descends, good weather ends. (Look out at chimneys for this
one in winter.)
Rain before seven, fine by eleven.
Snow like cotton, soon forgotten.
Snow like meal, it’ll snow a good deal.
Frogs call to the coming rain
But in the sun are quiet again.