Can your coffee cup tell you if a storm is coming? Do crickets know the temperature?
Long before we had satellites and Doppler radar, humans relied on folklore, signs from nature and sayings like "Red sky at night, sailor's delight" to help determine the coming weather. Turns out, it's not all mythology. There's often proven, scientific reasoning behind the lore.
Check out these 20 surprising ways to predict the weather.
The Weather in Your Coffee
Pour a cup of coffee into a mug and watch the bubbles form. If they move rapidly to the cup's edge, expect good weather. But if the bubbles stay in the mug's center, clouds and rain could be on the way.
The reason? High pressure pushes the bubbles to the edge, and high pressure is an indicator of good weather.
Joint, Bone or Teeth Pains
Can your body tell you when it's going to rain? Arthritis pain and physical discomfort kick in when the barometric pressure changes. Many people with joint diseases, bad teeth, recently healed broken bones, and even corns and bunions report feeling aches as the barometer drops. Low barometric pressure often indicates that clouds and rain are on the way.
Headaches and Sinus Pain
Sinus and facial pain caused by changes in the barometric pressure can also be an indicator that precipitation is coming. The pain can get so severe for some people that it leads to migraines. Headaches can also indicate other weather conditions such as extremely hot or cold temperatures and high winds.
Birds Flying Low in the Sky
When a storm is approaching it's believed that birds fly lower in the sky. This may actually be the case. When the barometric pressure drops, flying at great heights becomes difficult for birds. The pressure drop is also believed to hurt birds' ears, prompting them to fly at a lower altitude.
Red Sky at Night, Sailor's Delight
Perhaps the best-known bit of weather folklore is "Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning." The saying dates back thousands of years and just might have some scientific truth behind it. Weather tends to move from west to east in the Northern Hemisphere. A red sky at sunset often results from clear skies, indicating that high pressure will keep storms at bay.
If the sky is red in the morning, the sunlight from the east could be illuminating moisture in the air, indicating that a storm is coming from the west.
"A Ring Around the Moon, Rain or Snow Is Coming Soon"
A circle around the moon is caused by the moon's light streaming through thin cirrostratus clouds. These clouds are linked to moisture and warm fronts, which could indicate that it will rain in the next few days.
Count a Cricket's Chirps
Counting the number of times a cricket chirps can be a surprisingly accurate means to determine the temperature, because a cricket's metabolism changes as the temperature changes.
Count the number of times a cricket chirps in 14 seconds and add 40 to that number. The resulting number should come close to the temperature in Fahrenheit.
Cows Lying on the Grass
Anyone who has lived near farmland has heard the notion that if cows are lying on the grass, rain is coming. While it's not a perfect predictor, there could be truth to the theory. Animals are known to be sensitive to changes in barometric pressure. Some experts theorize that cows sense those changes and lie down so they are positioned on a dry spot of grass before the storm begins.
Dew on the Grass
When morning dew forms on grass, it means the sky was mostly clear the previous night, the earth cooled and temperatures fell. These cooler temperatures cause water to condense, creating dew (or frost in cooler weather).
If the grass is dry in the morning, it means clouds could have kept temperatures at or above the dewpoint and could indicate rain is on the way.
The method obviously isn't reliable if it rained overnight.
Listen to the Cicadas
If you can't hear the sounds of cicadas when they're normally causing a racket, it could mean that rain is coming. The reason? Cicadas can't vibrate their wings easily when the humidity gets high, and high humidity can mean rain. So the cicadas' silence can indicate rain is near.
Cloud Layers and Movement
Layers of clouds moving in different directions (east and north, for example) indicate that severe weather could be on the way. When cloud layers start moving in different directions, it means an area of low pressure is nearby, and that often leads to clouds and rain.
Feel the Breeze
Wind direction can tell you a good deal about the weather. Easterly winds, which blow from the east, can indicate a storm front is moving in, while winds blowing west mean good weather.
Keep in mind, light winds or breezes don't necessarily indicate foul weather, but if the easterly winds grow suddenly strong, it can be an indicator of a shift in barometric pressure, another sign that a storm is approaching.
Horse (or Cow) Tails
There's an old saying regarding horses (though it's true for our bovine friends as well): "Tails pointing west, weather's at its best; tails pointing east, weather is least."
Turns out, animals tend to graze with their rear ends pointed toward the wind. A westerly wind usually indicates good weather, while an easterly wind sometimes means bad weather is approaching.
The saying, "Trout jump high when a rain is nigh," could have some truth to it. When air pressure drops, it could cause trapped gases on the bottom of a body of water to be released.
This release causes microscopic organisms to disperse into water, which prompts small fish to start feeding. The small fish attract larger fish that prey on them. Eventually, all this feeding can cause such a stir that the fish start jumping.
Animals Behaving Strangely
Notice anything amiss in the animal kingdom? If so, particularly with animals that dwell underground, the behavioral change could predict a major seismic event. Before a disastrous earthquake in Italy in 2009, a colony of toads mysteriously evacuated its pond. Similarly in China in 1975, hibernating snakes emerged from their holes prior to a major quake in Haicheng.
Scientists surmise that ground dwelling animals can sense a chemical change in the groundwater caused by rocks in the Earth's crust releasing charged particles. The disturbance can lead them to seek safer havens.
Sniff the Air
Smell the air. Prior to a storm it's possible to smell the scent of ozone, a sweet odor, being carried to lower altitudes. Meanwhile, during a low pressure system and rain, molecules from decomposing plant matter are released from the surfaces they've attached to, such as soils, and often smell like compost, which can also indicate rain.
Look for Tower Clouds
Tower clouds, or cumulonimbus, as they're known scientifically, can indicate that severe weather is approaching. Also called thunderheads because of the extreme weather they tend to precede, the clouds gain their flat-topped shape from high winds and often have dark bottoms.
Next: 20 Surprising Tips for Surviving a Heat Wave
Check for Humidity
High humidity can sometimes mean rain is coming. How to check for humidity in nature? Try looking at pine cones. They close during humid conditions. Also, take a peek at oak and maple trees. Their leaves curl up in humid weather. Finally, there's the hair test: Curly hair gets frizzy.