As a country we love to talk about the weather—especially rain. Maybe that’s why there are so many rain-predicting sayings that have survived through the years.
A lot of lore is based on observations that precede a change in the weather in the next 24 to 48 hours, says David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. These include changes in humidity, barometric pressure, air temperature, wind direction and speed, and cloud cover (see “Do these old-timey cloud sayings really predict the weather?”). Sure, some sayings simply persist because they rhyme and they’re easy to remember. But others persist because they “have stood the test of time,” says Phillips. “Which usually means that there’s at least some truth to them.”
When dew is on the grass, rain won’t come to pass
Dew forms when there’s no cloud cover; no clouds = no rain.
When leaves turn on their back, ‘tis a sign it’s going to rain
Winds changing from westerly to easterly— which can bring rain— flip leaves over.
When the chairs squeak, it’s of rain they speak
High humidity causes wood to swell, and furniture gets noisy.
When boat horns sound hollow, rain will sure follow
The increased moisture in the air makes it denser, allowing sound to travel farther.
If cows are lying down, it’s going to rain
Animals seem to sense weather changes that we can’t, but cows lie down for many reasons.
Aching pain, coming rain
A change in barometric pressure can make joints ache, but stress or strain can also cause people to feel body pains.
Thunder curdles cream, lightning sours milk
Anecdotally, this used to happen, but now we have refrigeration, which negates changes in humidity or air temperature.
A ring around the sun or moon means rain (or snow) is coming soon
Cirrus clouds, which can come about 48 hours before a rain, pass in front of the sun or moon, bend its light, and create the illusion of a halo.
This story was originally published in the October 2021 issue of Cottage Life, as part of the package “Red sky at night, could be right.”