Weather forecasting part II

Published 6:41pm Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I asked for emails in my last column about ways of forecasting weather.
I received an email from the computer teacher at Tryon Elementary School. It seems a student there, named Aliya, has a pretty surefire way to predict weather. It goes; “Red sails at night, sailor’s delight, Red sails at morning, sailors take warning.”
It seems Aliya may be on to something. There is some variance in the way this old saying is told, but the core meaning is the same.
This idea is older than we may think. Jesus actually referred to this method of weather forecasting nearly 2,000 years ago in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 16, verses 2-3.
In summary it says; when it is evening you say it will be fair weather for the sky is red, and in the morning it will be foul weather today for the sky is red and lowering.
Still not convinced? Well here is some science to back this up. The colors of the sky are affected by high and low surface pressure weather systems. Low pressure areas are associated with inclement weather such as rain, snow, clouds, etc.
High pressure areas are associated with blue skies and lower humidity, they also have an effect on bending the colors of the spectrum.
Where these two pressure areas touch to each other is where the colors can change the most. Mix that with the sun rising or setting and you can do some weather predicting. This only works where the weather is a westerly pattern, certain areas of the globe the opposite would be true.
Picture yourself on a ship in a mid-latitude ocean. There the wind and storm paths is from west to east.
It is morning and you see a red sunrise. Since it is morning, you are looking east, and the red sky indicates that there is high pressure there. Because you are in the mid-latitudes, the high is moving eastward – away from you. That could only mean that a low, and very likely an associated storm is moving toward you from the west.
Now picture yourself watching the sunset and the western sky is red. That means that an area of high pressure is to your west, the westerlies are moving it toward you, and good weather is on the way.
I have also heard many old timers talk of a ring around the moon forecasting snow. And the number of stars in that ring indicates the number of days until it snows.
You need more to go on than that? Well, the science behind the ring is that the moonlight is reflecting off of ice crystals associated with high level cirrus clouds.
These cirrus clouds are many times the forerunner of a low pressure area that has inclement weather associated with it. The ice crystals are a sign of a low that is more likely to produce snow.
A Texas A&M study said this method of weather predicting is about 66 percent accurate.
I don’t have any science to the number of stars related to the number of days though.
I’m sure most of the people of days past didn’t have a clue to the “science” behind it all, they just learned through the years what happened more often than not.
There’s more to come in my next column.
Email me at

Editor's Picks