Weather Folklore Revisited - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Weather Folklore Revisited

Question: 

Weather Folklore is an interesting topic of study, and like many old wives' tales, folklore sayings often have a basis in truth.  Can you offer more insight on the weather folklore I have come across?

1.    Fresh breeze in summer, boaters take cover. 
2.    Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.
3.    When the wind is in the south, rain in its mouth. 
4.    A west wind carrieth water in his hand.
5.    With dew before midnight, the next day will surely be bright.

      The accuracy is usually dependent on where the folklore saying originated!  Folklore from northern & western Europe is often very different from folklore from the Mediterranean region or the Mideast.
     Much of the weather folklore that crossed the Atlantic with Northwestern European immigrants was accurate in their home countries, but the folklore totally changed in the eastern United States. 
     Number 4 above is a great example: winds off the Atlantic fed moisture into western Europe, but west winds in the central U.S. are generally "dry" air masses compared to flow from the Gulf (south winds).
    Number 4 would be true for the Pacific Coast states more so than anywhere else in the U.S.  For states east of the Rockies, Gulf flow (south winds) are typically the "wettest" winds  (Number 3 above is more appropriate for us).

Here's a great example of conflict from the Bible:

"Fair weather cometh out of the north."-- Job
"The north wind bringeth forth rain."-- Proverbs

I suppose I should pick the one that fits the weather of the day?  Why the difference?  It appears likely that accuracy depends on where in the Mideast the proverb originated.

Answer:

As for the others you mentioned (above):

(1) I think you have it correct, cool, "fresh" breezes in the summer are often the result of "outflow" winds ahead of a t-storm.

(2) There is some truth here--at least into the morning:  red sky at night is often the result of higher dust content in "dry" air .. a "drier" atmosphere that will likely remain dry through the next day's morning.   Red sky in the morning is often indicative of a lot of water vapor in the air ... fuel for t-showers & storms.  But for the Gulf Coast region, afternoon summer-season pop-up storms make the "red sky at night" only moderately reliable.

(3) I think you have number 3 essentially.  Most storm systems east of the Rockies (not just along the Gulf Coast) derive the majority of their moisture from the Gulf.

(4) Pretty much "busted" folklore anywhere east of the Rockies.

Jay Grymes
WAFB Storm Team
Chief Meteorologist

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