Become Your Own Weather Forecaster

Have you ever wondered how weather forecasters used to predict weather back in the “old days”? You know - the days before KLYSTRON or VIPER radar. Scary names.
Back in the early days, farmers, gardeners, or any kind of grower used to depend on one thing for their weather forecast. Any guesses?
If you said the Farmers’ Almanac, that’s a pretty good guess - but not quite right.
I am talking about clouds.
That’s right. People used to walk outside of their homes, look toward the sky, and be able to tell what the weather was going to be like for the day - or week. Sounds magical? Not really. It’s actually something that you can still do today - with a little help.
With a little studying, you can tell if hurricanes or tornadoes might be on their way. How about being able to tell when that next big blizzard is going to hit? Does the old saying, “Red sky in the morning, sailor's warning, red sky at night, sailor's delight” hold any truth? Yes, it does! 
Did you also know that certain clouds will tell you what way they are moving by the direction in which they are pointing? Clouds can dwell as low as 4,000 feet and reach up into the upper atmosphere around 36,000 feet. Pretty amazing.
If you’re interested in improving your weather predicting skills, do some research online or in your local library. One Web site in particular that I really liked is Instructables
Give it a try. It can be quite fun and something the whole family can join - not to mention the next time you’re at an outdoor event with friends and you show up with an umbrella. They might all laugh at you. But you'll know something they don’t.
How cool is that?
Join the discussion... How are your weather predicting skills? Is this something you would consider? Why or why not?
Reminder... April is our Blog Comment Contest. The winner of our contest will receive a fabulous Canon digital camera and a Mister Landscaper kit. All you have to do is leave a comment on any April blog post. The winner will be determined by the number of comments each contestant leaves. Each comment will represent one entry for our random drawing. Here is more information and a picture of the prizes.
Good luck to all!


4/6/2012 11:55 PM
I think observing clouds for short-term moisture forecasting is only half the issue, though, with gardening -- clouds may indicate upcoming rain or cold fronts passing through, but I think a big key with vegetation especially in the fall or spring is being able to tell when temperatures may get low enough for a frost or freeze, or when an extended period of drought or extremely high temperatures are coming up so that you have time to prepare. That's definitely important for making sure you prep your irrigation system so hoses don't freeze or get damaged.

As a side note, two cool cloud formations not mentioned in the Instructable are Mammatus clouds ( and Lenticular clouds ( Some people even mistake lenticular clouds for UFOs!
4/7/2012 8:58 AM
Many years ago, my father-in-law told me about "mare tails",light, whispy clouds. He told me of rain with in the next 24 hrs. My Dad told me about count the stars within the halo around the moon will tell how many days til rain.  I have heard about the "red sky" all my life, too.
4/7/2012 4:38 PM
I think that the best way to make it rain is to wash your car............

Mike Sloan
4/7/2012 11:55 PM
I've heard the halo around the moon trick, too! But whenever there's a halo around the moon here, most of the time it means rain or snow the next day.

Ha! Washing my truck does two things (1) makes it rain and (2) attracts every bird that has eaten pokeberries within a 10 mile radius.
4/9/2012 7:30 AM
My relatives out in Colorado tell me that pink clouds in the evening definitely mean snow the next day.

I learned the halo around the moon means a windy day in the forecast.

I agree, @msloan1. It seems that every time we wash our car, it definitely rains. :) And the bird droppings too, @computeraddict04!

Thanks for sharing!

MrL Blog Manager
4/9/2012 8:16 AM
"Red sky in the morning sailors take warning, red sky at night, sailors delight."  I don't remember who told that to me but it always made me chuckle.  Don't think it's very accurate either :)
4/9/2012 4:02 PM

That reminds me of another saying here around NC: If you hear thunder during winter, then it will snow within 10 days.
4/10/2012 11:17 AM
@Jason, my understanding is that the truth in the "red sky" saying relates to the amount of dust particles in the air.  A large amount of dust causes a deep red sunrise or sunset.  It also increases the chance of rain.  So a red sunset meant it would rain overnight, but a red sunrise meant sailors would be setting out in stormy weather that day.
4/10/2012 12:14 PM
I would of never know that theory with the clouds..however I can tell if there is going to be a big storm or a passer-by storm by the looks of the clouds.  Clouds to me can be very mysterious..
4/10/2012 5:26 PM
My grandfather used to always point out the cloud types to us and got me initially interested in this. Here in New Jersey we are starting an early spring like much of the U.S. I already have my system started in the front year. Made it through its first winter- albeit an easy one! We are in an extreme dry spell right now even as the plants are popping- and so they need Mr. Landscaper! In fact, there are forest fires nearby due to the weather conditions. I am not sure if clouds are helpful to predicting weather for me here since often in the pine barrens only a small portion of the sky can be seen reliably. Today is quite cloudy. But no rain so far. So I am irrigating. I have noticed however changes in wildlife that correspond to weather and clouds. For example right now I hear the sound of a hawk hunting out back. It's cloudy and a lot of the animals come out when its like this. So they have smaller critters to hunt. Everyone is happy that my birdbath is back up an running for the year! Happy Spring to Mr. Landscaper!
Mary in South Jersey
4/12/2012 7:22 AM
Ten days! I guess back then, they needed to know way in advance!

My husband is an angler--I say fisherman; he corrects me all the time. I've heard him use that saying many times.

Good insight! Need to tell my husband!

I agree--the clouds can be very mysterious. I love looking at them and trying to see what could they mean.

I've heard of changes in wildlife due to weather and clouds. Everything is definitely interrelated.... Thank you for using MrL products and we will keep your area in our thoughts because of all the forest fires.

Great discussions, everyone! Keep 'em coming. :)

MrL Blog Manager
4/12/2012 3:45 PM
Sounds easy to remember all the different types of clouds!
4/15/2012 6:56 PM
I remembered another old saying yesterday when I drove by a farm, and someone commented, "The cows are laying down, that means it is going to rain" -- I've heard that about both cows and horses, and it usually does rain within a day of seeing the cows/horses laying down. Not always, but sometimes.
4/22/2012 8:49 PM
Great way on telling the weather!
4/22/2012 8:50 PM
<3 thank you Mr.landscaper! You help me a lot! <3
4/22/2012 9:02 PM
Great weather predicting tips!
4/25/2012 9:36 AM
As a Skywarn spotter and CoCoRaHS observer, I'm constantly following the weather. It's nice to know ahead of time how to plan your watering needs.
4/29/2012 10:33 AM
Am thinking of keeping a gardening journal this year.  Tracking the clouds light be something else I can track in the journal.  We'll see how it goes.
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