Old Fashioned Ways to Predict the Weather

by Merissa on May 11, 2015

in Homestead Hints, Simple Living

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Old Fashioned Ways to Predict the Weather

Is it just me or is the evening forecast becoming less and less reliable? No offense to weatherman but it just seems like the weather has a mind of it's own and it will never be tamed with computer predictions. (Seems like that's proved year after year with the Farmer's Almanac!)

I've always been a big believer in the "crazy" weather prediction methods. I knew that if my grandma's knees hurt than we were in for some rain. And if the cattle started moving quickly to a corner of the field you better be prepared to get indoors as fast as possible.

There are many methods for reading the sky, the animals, and our own bodies to help predict the weather and today you are going to learn all about them. Here's some ways that you can predict the weather forecast.

Cloud Predictions:

  • Cumulonimbus clouds (traditional thunderstorm looking clouds) early in the day and developing throughout the day can mean greater chances of severe weather.
  • Mammatus cloud (the puffy, pocket looking clouds) can form with both severe and non-severe thunderstorms as well as other cloud types.
  • Cirrus clouds (the stringy fluffy ones), high in the sky like long streamers, mean bad weather within the next 36 hours
  • Altocumulus clouds, (look like fish scales), also "mean" bad weather within the next 36 hours. The sailor's saying  is "Mares tails and mackerel scales, tall ships carry short sails."  Rain is sure to follow the next day.
  • Cumulus towers(look like an explosion in the sky)  indicate the possibility of showers later in the day.
  • Nimbostratus clouds (rain clouds) hang low and heavy in the sky, and mean rain is imminent.
  • Cirrocumulus clouds (small, puffy in rows) means that cold weather is on it's way.
  • The higher the clouds the fairer the weather.


The Sky:

  • If you see a red sky during sunset (when you're looking to the west), there is a high pressure system with dry air that is stirring dust particles in the air. Means dry air is moving towards you (no rain ahead but wind is sure to follow).
  • A red sky in the morning (in the East, where the sun rises) means that the dry air has already moved past you, and what is behind it will now follow. (Rain or storm)
  • Look for rainbows in the morning. A rainbow in the west means moisture is on it's way, a rainbow in the east means the rain has left the area.
  • If there is a ring around the moon at night, snow or rain will come in the next 3 days.


  • If you take a deep breath and smell earth and compost, moisture is coming soon.
  • If you flowers smell stronger than normal, rain is on its way.



  • If the birds are flying high in the sky, fair weather will stay around.
  • If cattle seek a corner of a field or lie down in a group in the fields, a severe storm is immanent.
  • Cats will clean their ears before a rain.
  • Spiders come down from their webs before a rain.
  • The louder the frogs, the more the rain.
  • Ants will build their ant hills with steeper walls when rain is coming.
  • When dogs eat grass, rain is coming.
  • Bats flying around in the evening indicates fair weather.
  • To convert cricket chirps to degrees Fahrenheit, count number of chirps in 14 seconds then add 40 to get temperature.



  • If there is dew in the grass in the morning, chances are it won't rain that day.
  • If you make a fire outside and the smoke goes straight up, you will have good weather. If the smoke curls and wisps then a low pressure system (rain) is on it's way)
  • If it rains before seven, it will clear before eleven.
  • If three nights dewless there be,  'twill rain, you're sure to see.
  • With dew before midnight, the next day sure will be bright.

There is evidence that if you spend enough time outside and in the earth, your body will tell you and give you signs when certain weather is approaching. (Such as the sore knees before a rainstorm!) Many old farmers have their own unique ways of predicting the weather and they are often correct!

Many of these are ways to tell if rain is coming but we've already posted ways to discover what winter weather will be like in case you want to check that out too!

Which ways of predicting the weather have you found to be the most accurate? Do you have any "body signs" of impending weather?


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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cynthia L June 6, 2013 at 10:38 am

These are all really great ways to figure out the weather! Thanks so much for sharing this. The weather certainly has been crazy lately!


2 Merissa June 6, 2013 at 4:01 pm

It definitely has! I stopped paying attention to the weatherman completely because it’s just not accurate anymore!


3 dawn June 6, 2013 at 12:16 pm

My grandpa always said if you saw lots of turtles crossing the highways then it was going to rain


4 Merissa June 6, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I haven’t heard that one!


5 Christine Boerssen May 30, 2015 at 10:45 am

I know about tortoises crossing the road and the belief is that it is going to rain when they are moving away from the water (river or stream).


6 Tasha June 6, 2013 at 2:53 pm

If wasps build their nest in the ground, there won’t be much snow in the winter, if it is up high there will be lot’s.
The bigger a beavers feed bed is, the more snow there will be.
If the leaves of a tree curl up, it will rain


7 Merissa June 6, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Great additions!


8 Maril June 6, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Love the Old Timey words of wisdom. My Grandma always swore by the wisdom of predicting rain by observing the sheep eating grass and cats washing their ears. She didn’t know what each cloud was called but she knew what to expect. And, yes…smells mattered and which direction they came from.

Grandma’s been gone from us for 30 years. I’m 60 yrs old now and her wisdom still leads the way. When a hard rain or a heavy dry snow is on the way, my scapulas (shoulder blades) ache. I call them my “weather wings”.


9 Merissa June 6, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I love that, “weather wings” ! :)


10 Carole Edminson June 6, 2013 at 3:49 pm

My dad always said, ” Want to know the weather look out a window.” However, my fingers feel stabby pains and usually within 15 minutes it rains.


11 Merissa June 6, 2013 at 4:00 pm

So true, all we have to do is just take that peek outside!


12 Pam June 6, 2013 at 4:01 pm

If the cattle are laying down……rain is on the way


13 Rhonda June 6, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in morning is sailors warning. I grew
Up in the country and you learn to watch the sky
And cows, birds and other animals. You can feel a storm or change of weather coming. When rain is coming, some tree leaves turn upwards.


14 Merissa June 6, 2013 at 6:49 pm

That’s really neat about the tree leaves, I didn’t know that one!


15 Ellen September 28, 2013 at 10:39 pm

The leaves on trees do turn up before a rain.
In spite of all the rain we have had this summer and fall the
leaves on some trees are curling upward and look extremely
dehydrated……..turn brown and fall off. I saw a map of the
drought states (showed how the drought has spread eastward )
and Tennessee should be hit with it in 2014 (my opinion) and
that is why I think the leaves are curling and looking dehydrated.

About 30 minutes before it starts to rain my knees start to hurt.
The worse the pain the harder the rain. If it takes up to two hours
for the rain to come we have absolutely horrible rain storms.


16 Lana June 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm

I have a good German made barometer that is pretty helpful, too. I second the leaves turning over. That is a sure sign in our area. My husband says that weathermen have no accountability! But, I am so glad that hurricanes are seen from satellites now since much of our family is in Florida or near the coast.


17 Julie June 6, 2013 at 10:18 pm

I have always heard caterpillars get really fuzzy if the winter is going to be colder.


18 Ellen @ My not so Simple Life June 7, 2013 at 4:53 am

My grandmother used always say the one. Red sky at night sailors delight, red sky in morning sailors take warning. I find it to stand pretty true. These are all great!


19 Mike the Gardener June 7, 2013 at 6:58 am

That’s actually really neat. I have heard about the red sky tip before, but not the others, now I am going to be staring into the sky. That is of course after it stops raining here :)


20 Kristy June 7, 2013 at 1:20 pm

I love this. Also, just a fact of the day kind of thing (I’m full of useless knowledge), that smell that you notice right before it rains that smells like earth or compost, has an name. It is “petrichor.” Pronounced, “petra-core” Such a pretty word, if you ask me. :)


21 Merissa June 7, 2013 at 4:15 pm

That’s neat!


22 Rebecca Flansburg "Franticmommy" July 25, 2013 at 9:41 am

My dad and grandpa were both expert weather predictors. My grandpa used to say when the leaves on the oak trees turn their insides OUT, weather was coming (and he was totally right). I firmly believe animals can tell too. Thanks for yet another unique and excellent post!


23 Merissa July 25, 2013 at 9:49 am

That’s really interesting! Thanks for sharing.


24 angie September 21, 2013 at 5:14 am

My dad always looked for sundogs in the clouds. Sundogs are little rainbows in the clouds. If you see one it usually means, that you will see rain in 24 to 48 hours of seeing one in the sky. It’s true. Lots of people do not know of this fact. He was a fisherman and watched the weather a lot. He enjoyed knowing and sharing how the old timers figured out the weather:)


25 krys September 27, 2013 at 12:56 pm

The best rain predictor I had was a lil’ yellow apple tree. The leaves would curl up 24 hrs before it rained. Don’t forget to watch the flowers they tattle on weather too.


26 Hipockets September 27, 2013 at 10:08 pm

I always ask the Indians what the winter will be like. They always know from watching the animals etc. Usually better then the weather man’ ALso,Horses
always told me when it was going to storm,they run and kick and get real lively’


27 Ron September 28, 2013 at 3:54 am

Fishing folks probably already know this, but some others may not!
When the wind blows from the East, the fish bite least!
When the wind blows from the West, the fish bit best!
When the wind blows from the North, fishermen should not venture forth!
When the wind blows from the South, the bait fall in the fishes mouth!

I learned this from my Dad, over 75 years ago!
God knows how I miss you Dad, I feel you do too!


28 Merissa September 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Love this, thanks for sharing!


29 Al October 10, 2013 at 9:51 am

I learnd this stuff as a kid in boy scouts…years later my observations lead me to notice the geoengineering going on above me in the skys…it is commonly called chemtrails…their excuse is combating global warming…but of course this is not true…so when you see persistant trails clouding our skies and making brassy yellow rainbows.. global terriony will come soon…hope I am wrong…


30 Linda Filler October 20, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Forty years ago I had a 90 year old neighbor (who was friends with squirrels) who predicted the weather by the way animals and insects prepared in the Fall. I began to recognize some of the signs he had pointed out, and they have stayed with me through the years and moves around the country: Robins and chickadees get very fat, squirrels and chipmunks put on extra thick coats, garden spiders move closer to structures.
I love all the old time “folklore” and feel it is usually very reliable. Also, when we spend lots of time outdoors we get more in tune ourselves. Knees (and for me: hands) ache before weather changes, we smell the earth, etc.
I am so happy I found your site, Merissa, keep up the great work.


31 Merissa October 20, 2013 at 4:17 pm

I’m glad you found the site too Linda! Thanks for sharing those times!


32 Heather January 11, 2014 at 2:54 pm

It’s true, if you pay attention to your body and your surroundings, you will know what the weather is doing.
For me, when storms or big weather shifts are coming, I get headaches from the air pressure changes. My larger scars will itch and arthritis will act up when moisture is on it’s way. I have psoriasis, and it will flare when fall is coming and when spring is coming.
I can also smell rain and snow before they get here, and I can smell dust in the air when dust storms are coming, or wind storms.
I even knew it was a tornado kind of day 2 yrs back before the weather folks started posting watches for it. I had never lived in a tornado prone area before, but I could just feel something was different, and the look of the sky. And a tornado hit just outside of town, and another 2 towns over. It’s just learning to be in tune with what’s around you in nature. Sometimes we let our lives get to busy to see what’s around us.


33 marcy May 11, 2015 at 8:36 am

It’s always been pretty accurate to notice if the leaves in trees are turned over, silver sides up, that rain is coming. My grandmother told me years ago when I was young, I’ve always paid attention and it’s mostly accurate, unless it’s a very windy day.


34 Gaylene Henderson May 12, 2015 at 11:24 pm

I must be old fashioned. I knew all of these and a few I’ve figured out on my own. My grandmother taught my mother who taught me the “old wives tales” ways but it hasnt failed me yet. Now living on the coast (I lived far inland previously) I have learned some of the things that help tell the weather that I never saw in the valley. Wind clouds in the west (looks like brush strokes from a paint brush) means windy conditions within 24 hours. You can also tell how far away the wind is by how far out the white caps are on the ocean. The white caps hit the shoreline about an hour before the wind arrives. The higher the caps are off the water the stronger the winds will be. Birds disappear here a few hours before the weather changes. There wont be one to be found.


35 Angi May 15, 2015 at 9:44 am

A friend of mine at work insists she can tell when the barometric pressure is below 28. She gets a headache and is more achy than usual. So interesting!


36 Christine Boerssen May 30, 2015 at 10:56 am

My father used to forecast rain by looking at the first 12 days of the year. He noted wind direction and wind change during the day. If it is cloudy, dew in the morning and the stage of the moon. Then he would give probable days for rain for the rest of the year. How it works I do not know, but it does. I can make a rough prediction, but need more details on how to do it. My father passed away already and now I am looking for someone else who might still know how to do it.


37 Tamara July 12, 2015 at 8:04 pm

If the backs of leaves are showing, it’s going to rain with in a couple hours or more.


38 Tamara July 12, 2015 at 8:06 pm

Also, as you wrote, but I have a rhyme: “Pink sky at night, sailor’s delight. Pink sky in the morning, sailor’s take warning.”


39 Jessie September 24, 2015 at 9:48 pm

When I was little, I was told that the wider the stripes on a skunk the harder the winter would be. Also if the snow stays on the trees after snowing, it won’t stay around long.


40 Suz October 26, 2015 at 8:09 pm

I love all the weather folklore, but think I will stick to my weather stick for predicting daily weather. Works pretty well!


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