Weather Folklore: Fact or Fiction?

Here at Maine Huts & Trails, we’re kind of obsessed with weather predictions- it’s an important part of vacation planning, and can make or break your Maine adventure! We’ve all heard the old sayings; red sky at night, sailors’ delight; cows lie down before a rainfall, and many more. Like most folklore, there is science behind this ancient knowledge. Weather prediction used to matter for more than just planning ski trips- knowing what to expect, and being prepared, could be the difference between having an abundant harvest or a long, lean winter. Since farmers didn’t have the luxury of scientific weather models, they learned how to predict seasons sometimes months in advance by simply observing nature. Let’s look at a few of these old adages, and the science behind them:

If The Fish are Biting, Rain Will Fall:

We have some great fly fishing here in Western Maine, but can your catch really predict the weather? Actually, there is some science behind this that makes a lot of sense. The thing is, fish aren’t actually eating more, they’re just eating more on the surface. Low barometric pressure creates bubbles on the bottom of lakes and streams, and as these bubbles rise, they bring algae and other plant matter to the surface… small fish love this stuff, and will soon follow. Unfortunately for them, the larger fish will not be far behind looking for their favorite meal- small fish.

Red Sky at Night, Sailors’ Delight, Red Sky in the Morning, Sailors Take Warning:

Some of the most breathtaking sunsets you’ll ever see will be from the porch at Stratton Brook Hut. When the sky turns a fiery red, you can be sure the next day’s trek will be clear and calm. Since weather patterns move from West to East with the jet stream, the Western sky can give you a lot of information about what’s to come. High pressure means clear skies, and with the pressure off, dust particles are free to float towards the sun. The dust scatters blue light, leaving nothing but beautiful bright red! When you see this in a sunrise, it really only means there’s a nice high pressure system in the East, which is probably moving away from you.

When Cows Lie Down, Rain is Coming:

Chances are good you’ll pass a farm or two on the way here to Carrabassett Valley. Some say that to get a sense of the forecast, you just need to check out what the cows are up to. If all of them are lying down, it could mean a storm is on the way. Again, there are a few different theories behind this one. Some say the cows are thinking ahead, trying to preserve a patch of dry grass to eat when the rain passes. Another theory is that the low pressure hurts their joints, and lying down is just more comfortable. What is true for sure is that animals are acutely aware of changes in barometric pressure, making them pretty reliable forecasters!

One of the most exciting aspects of being outdoors for a few days at a time, is how much more you start to notice the weather. You’ll become more in tune with fluctuations in temperature, and changes in moisture in the air. Most of these old sayings have two common themes: keeping track of barometric pressure, and being aware of wind direction and speed. Low pressure and gusty, shifting winds? Good chance you’ll see some tumultuous weather soon. If you can learn to pay attention to the signs around you, before you know it you’ll be able to forecast weather as well as your ancestors!