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IN the good old times when a man was born, spent his life, and died in the same village the weather proverb was fashioned. Gen­erations had watched the clouds gather under certain circumstances and scatter under certain others and they naturally drew conclusions. These conclusions crystallized until they resem­bled nuggets of golden weather wisdom. Some were even used as charms. And all contained a deal of truth so long as they were only meant to refer to the country in which they had originated.


But nowadays when the very idea of remain­ing in the same place for very long at a time is obnoxious the weather proverb suffers. It suf­fers chiefly by transportation. The weather in County Cork is so very different from the weather that makes Chicago famous that the same weather lore does not fit. Yet it is often applied. The old truths, treasured in pictur­esque phrase and jingle, were brought over the ocean unchanged and made to do duty, -- a case of new wine in old bottles again, for a gentle old Irish proverb splits up the back when it tries to accommodate itself to a week of our reckless but magnificent weather.


Fairy stories are jewels to be cherished. And it is a careless and unimaginative race that perpetuates no legends. Even old saws are quaint and should be preserved: "See a pin and pick it up, all the day you'll have good luck." Let that sort of thing go on because it adds richness to our conversation. But if a thousand men, after having picked up their morning pins, sat around waiting for the ensu­ing luck the progress of scientific business man­agement would be halted. And precisely that way is the knowledge of ordinary weather facts halted, -- a full-grown superstition sits in the path. Instead of relying upon their eyes the majority of people rely upon a bit of doggerel. For example, millions of people firmly believe that the ground-hog is a key to the weather. They say that if the ground-hog does not see his shadow on the 2nd of February that winter is over!


This is the sort of thing that obscures the find­ings of science not to mention common-sense. Few of these people have ever seen a ground­-hog. Few of the rest have ever studied its habits. The ant, the mouse, the fly, the rat, and the mosquito have far more influence upon our lives than the ground-hog has and the most ambitious animal cannot expect to influence atmos­pheric pressure, which is responsible for our weather. Yet as often as the 2nd of February comes around the hopes of many are either dashed or raised according to the actions of this creature. As a matter of fact, whether Febru­ary 2nd is clear or cloudy can have no influence on the rest of the winter.


Almost all the other proverbs have a basis of reason. But this puts its believers in the wrong either way. If they say that it is the actions of the animal that they rely upon they depend upon a characteristic thoroughly and surely disproved. No animal, although it may sense a change in the weather a few hours in advance, is able to feel it for three days ahead to say nothing of six weeks. If these people say, on the other hand, that a cloudy February 2nd means an immediate and complete let up of winter, or that a clear February and means a certain continuance of cold weather for six weeks, they have only to trouble themselves to look at the files of the nearest Weather Bureau for the last forty years. They will find no connection. The trouble is that they will not look, but keep on repeating the bit of nonsense and believing in it, although the strength of their convictions probably does not reduce their coal-bills.


The same people are fond of saying that the first three days of December show what the win­ter will be like. That is, if the 1st is fair so will December be; if the 2nd is cold so will January be; and if it snows on the 3rd, so will it snow in February. If all three should be clear and warm certainly a remarkable winter would follow! No rain, no snow, no cold! You see how absurd this superstition is­ "A dry moon lies on its back!" After the ground-hog the moon is supposed to have the most influence on our seasons. The Government and many scientists connected with no gov­ernments have made careful, exhaustive and conclusive investigations. No relation between the moon and our weather has been discovered ex­cept as she causes our tides and they affect at­mospheric pressure in an infinitesimal degree. We would still have just as much and just as variable weather if there were no moon. The weather changes with the changing moon, and it does not change as the moon changes, and the chances are about even that the times of change will coincide. So there is, therefore, absolutely no foundation for the dozens of proverbs that yoke the changes of the moon with the changes of our weather. Neither in science nor in ob­servation has any sequence been deduced.


So the moon may lie on its back or on its side or stand on its head and the weather will remain dry if no low pressure areas cross the country, and it can lie on its back for days and the coun­try be drowned out if they do. There are enough pretty things to say about the moon, anyway, and will be more all the time for, to commit a paraphrase: Science is stranger than superstition.


"It will rain for forty days straight if it rains on St. Swithin's Day," which, I might as well say for the benefit of those who don't know their saints, falls on July 15th every year. It would be interesting to know how many people in a hundred really believe this, or really believe all the other things that are attributed to the saints, -- quite a few, probably. Luckily for St. Swithin July and August are wet months, with often several days of showers or thunderstorms in succession. But never once in Philadelphia has it rained for forty days, one right after another, although half the July 15ths have been rained on. This proverb is one of those that had better never been transplanted from its native Ireland where rain for 40 days would excite scarcely a curse.


"Long and loud singing of robins denotes rain." It does not. Oftener than not it de­notes the time of day. Just watch the robins and listen to them and see what they do before a storm, during it, after it, and then you will see how little the songs of birds can be depended upon to supplant the barometer.


"If March comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb," and the other way round. I have seen March come in like a lion and go out like a lion, come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, come in like a lamb and go out like a lion, and come in like a lamb and go out like a Noah's ark. But I never have seen March do anything de­pendable. It is quite impossible to tell how March is going out on March 27th, and abso­lutely impossible to tell on March 1st.


But there is this much observation expressed in the proverb, that March is so changeable that, if it comes in cold, windy, unsettled, there is not so much chance for such weather still to be going on at the end of the month, and still less in Eng­land where the proverb came from. This is a harmless proverb unless it should lead people to actually count upon a pleasant spring just be­cause March had an unpleasant inception. Mis­fortunes rarely come singly, even on the weather calendar.


"When squirrels are scarce in autumn the winter will be severe." Aside from the scien­tific truth that the animals cannot know in ad­vance about the seasons there is little evidence on either side to base a contention. Nobody has made a squirrel census; nobody, probably, has found out whether they increase in numbers for six years and then die off in great quantities as do the rabbits in the north country on the seventh; nobody has connected their apparent numbers year after year with the actual severities of the winters. And so nobody has a right to promulgate the report (except as a bit of non­sense like April Fool) that the ensuing winter is going to be a record breaker because the squir­rels have disappeared. It would be far truer to say that "When squirrels are scarce in autumn the hunters have been busy," and let it go at that.


There are a lot of proverbs in this connection about goose bones and hickory nuts and wild geese, which sound plausible but are never proved. If the birds have all the sense credited to them it is strange that some allow themselves to be caught by an early snowstorm in the fall and decimated. Also it is not uncommon for early migrations in the spring to arrive in the north to be slain by the thousand by a belated blizzard. It is granted that animals and birds, having a far greater sensitiveness than man, oc­casionally sense a catastrophe some hours before it is evidenced by any visual signs, but seasonal wisdom has not been proved in any one instance and disproved in many. None of the proverbs relating to the animals and birds are to be de­pended upon. They deceive, much to the regret of all the meteorologists who would welcome any genuine clue to nature of the coming season. Any farmer would be only too glad to keep a menagerie of squirrels and wild geese and toads if only he might be assured by them of the com­ing seasonal conditions.


The proverbs given indicate the range, possi­bly, but certainly not the full absurdity of the old weather sayings. There are many other proverbs that contain at least a half truth.


"Enough blue sky to make a Dutchman's breeches indicates clearing," is one that is true if the wind has changed to the west. If the wind still blows from an easterly quarter blue sky for a Dutchman's whole wardrobe would not insure clear weather. All sayings must be tested many times before they are believed implicitly.


"There is always a thaw in January," is about as true a generalization as can be made about things for which generalizations are never strictly in place. Even in Canada the severity of the winter is often broken by a spell of warmer weather with a rain, perhaps, in the dead of winter. In the United States a winter with­out some break in each of the months would be a most unusual occurrence. So that it is quite reasonable to expect the "January thaw" any time from Christmas until the middle of Febru­ary.


"A late spring never deceives," unless it is so very late, like the phenomenal spring of 1907, that the jump is made, perforce, into summer. That is a cruel deception. What is meant of course is that if the freezing weather continues consistently, well past the average, the likeli­hood of frost-damage to fruit is slight. There is nothing much worse than for the blossoms to be forced by a period of warm weather early, for there is only a slim chance that it will continue past the danger limit. It is surprising how late frost may occur, -- the last date for killing frost in Pennsylvania is about May 10th on the aver­age, which makes it possible till June.


"The first robins indicate the approach of spring." But certainly not its arrival.


"If the moon rises clear expect fair weather." Right; because if it is summer even the eastern horizon would show the humidity necessary enough to cause a thunderstorm, and in winter the cirrus clouds give several hours' warning. But, again, the wind is the chief fac­tor to be considered.


Proverbs, representing variations of the truth, could be given about every manifestation of the skies as well as about things that were never manifest except in the imagination, for every country has contributed to the volume of weather-lore. But, unfortunately, neither age nor amount of repetition are as good as the truth and they should be discarded if they are false. The way to discard is not to repeat.


The man who desires weather-wisdom should seek it with his eyes. His comparison will be that which he sees with that which he has seen, and he will soon form all the weather axioms he needs for himself. The local Bureau or the Bu­reau at Washington will answer all his inquiries, cheerfully, promptly, and free of charge. Of course there are things that the Bureau wants to know itself. It is very curious about the higher strata of air. Small balloons have carried very light instruments to an altitude of fifteen miles and brought considerable knowledge to earth, but each bit makes more knowledge imperative. The cry of "last frontier" hurts the adven­turous, the exploring, the woods-loving as no other cry has power to hurt. With the Poles gone and Alaska in harness we are inclined to think that it is all over. We resign ourselves to our trammelling globe, -- as the gold-fish do, -- forgetting. But there is plenty of interest left. The birds must be brought back. Forests must be made and patrolled, and the air-ocean is still unknown. That, at any rate, has remained un­spoiled by man.


The seas have been charted and the moun­tains have been disemboweled, but the atmos­phere is unconquered. More must be known. Squadrons of aeroplanes cannot ride out the gale until their pilots know all about the gale. Un­til that time there need be no cry of last frontier, for until that time the weather will continue to be our overlord, whose dominions are flaunted before the watcher on the porch and the runner on the trail.







Look for continued fair weather when:


A gentle wind blows from the west, north­west, or a little south of west.


The sun sets in a cloudless sky.


The sunset is composed of light tints, inclin­ing to red or yellow.


The sunset is followed by a glowing and slow. fading western sky.


The sun sets like a ball of fire (warmer).


The sun rises out of a gray sky.


The clouds are noticeably high for the sea­son.


The clouds rise on the mountains.


The clouds have frequent breaks showing blue sky between.


The puffy cumulus clouds show a lot of white.


The cumulus clouds decrease toward night­fall.


The winter sky is mottled with a northwest wind.


The summer morning fog breaks before ten o'clock.


The dawn is low.


The blue sky has a tendency to show green near the northern horizon (colder).


The sun breaks through a departing thunder­storm and makes a rainbow.


Snow-flurries drift down a north wind (colder).


Cirrus clouds, or others, dissolve, or cirrus have tails down.


Spiders spin on the grass.


There is a moderate dew or frost.


The temperature is normal or colder than normal, other signs being right.


The sky is sown with stars.


The moon rises clear.


The wind blows down mountain ravines after nightfall.


The salt is dry, smoke ascends, birds fly high, and animals act normally.


The barometer rises slowly, or is steady at or above 30.00.


No change need be feared as the anticyclone nears, or for three days after clear conditions are established so long as the wind remains brisk from some westerly quarter. The direction of the wind, the kind of cloud, and the temperature changes are the factors to watch if you have no barometer.




Look for a change toward storms when:


The west wind suddenly drops.


The west wind shifts to south or northeast.


The cirrus clouds appear in well-organized lines.


The cirrus clouds merge into cirro-stratus.


The sky looks like fish scales, so-called mack­erel sky.


Light scud drifts across the sky from east to west.


The summer cumulus clouds increase in size as the afternoon proceeds.


Walls grow damp, flies are more of a burden than usual, swallows fly low.

Smoke falls to the ground.


There have been three white frosts.


A halo appears around either the moon or sun.


When sun-dogs appear about the sun, denot­ing ice-particles in the air.


The summer morning is sultry and the wind variable.


The temperature is much above the normal.


Few stars are visible and those are indistinct.


The clouds gather about the mountain tops, or drop down the mountain-sides.


The wind continues to blow up ravines after nightfall.


The sunset is a dull gray, or the sun sets into a livid cloudbank.


The sunrise is a fiery red, and the dawn is high.


The sun gradually is smothered in fine-tex­tured clouds and the wind shifts.


The temperature does not fall at night.


The signs most to be heeded are the shift of wind to a point east of north or south, the grad­ual filming of the sky with. cirrus and cirro­stratus, and the increase of temperature. Of course, the barometer is the best indicator of all.




Look for a change toward clearing when:


The wind shifts from the easterly quarter into the west.


The temperature falls rapidly.


The clouds rise, or break, or lighten percepti­bly in color.


Patches of blue sky appear through the rifts in the clouds, wind north.


Raindrops grow smaller after the windshift.


Snowflakes drive less busily, float lazily down, or thin out conspicuously.


Seams appear in the clouds, snow will cease and rain probably.


The thunder and lightning occur only in the eastern quarter.


Permanent clearing will not be effected until the change of the wind to the points on the west­ern half of the compass show that the cy­clone has definitely passed to the north or south or over the locality. In winter the cloud covering may move off slowly, but there will be little precipitation after the wind has reached north or west. The bank of cirro-stratus gets thinner and the moon or the sun gradually shines through. In summer clearing is much more abrupt, as is the clouding up. The ability to sense accurately the moment when the weights are shifted and the change to clearing com­mences takes some observation to acquire, but the advantage is worth it.




Rain (or snow) will fall:


Within five minutes after the arch of the thun­dercloud is seen to move toward one.


Within five minutes when the curtain of fall­ing drops obscures the landscape to the west of one.


Within a few minutes after the bottoms of cumulus clouds turn from black to gray, letting down visible trailing showers.


Within a short while after the winter sky has become uniform in color.


Within an hour after the pavement-like, but scarcely discernible, thundercloud consolidates along the west, if the wind is from the south­west. If the wind is from the southeast this cloud may take four hours to rise.


From two to eight hours after the sun or moon has vanished behind the cirro-stratus. From eight to forty-eight hours after the first cirrus is seen, depending upon the distance from the sea and the time of year.


Every little while from southwest showers in the passing of a summer low.


For about eight to twelve hours continuously in a winter storm, and intermittently until the wind swings west.


For a very short while from a thunder cloud rising on a west wind.


For an hour or more from a thundercloud that rises on a southwest or southeast wind.




The temperature will fall when:


A thunderstorm breaks, continuing low if the wind blows from the west after clearing.


Nightfall approaches and the sky is free from clouds.


The mercury remains at the same level during the sunny hours.


A cyclone is departing and the anticyclone moving in.


The wind swings north of east in a storm, -- the fall will be gradual.


The wind swings west of south in a storm, -- the fall will be sudden.


A snowstorm begins, for a short time only.


A cloudy day clears at sunset.


Snow flurries are seen.


The sky shows green and the clouds look hard.



The temperature will rise when:


A thunderstorm is brewing, or a day or two before a winter cyclone.


After a thunderstorm if another is to follow.


The morning is free from clouds and if it is not the first day of a cold wave.


The wind dips south of west or south of northeast, the former shift bringing the more sudden rise.


The sun sets as a ball of fire, at which one can easily look.


A snowstorm gets under way, unless the wind is swinging toward the north.






One satisfying thing about meteorology is that there is a constantly widening field for con­quest. Among the questions that await solu­tion are:


What are the relative densities of clouds?


What is the original atmospheric electricity, its distribution and laws?


What are the causes and nature of precipita­tion?


Will aerial ascents on all sides of an atmos­pheric disturbance discover the mechanism of storms?


What relations are there of solar radiation to our atmosphere?


What influence do lunar tides bear to our weather?


On what does the permanence of the summer lows over the Rockies depend?


These questions are only samples. Many certainties can be attained by merely complete observations over a longer period of time, oth­ers by new systems of observations that await a more generous appropriation. Even the upper air investigations on Mt. Weather, Va., have had to be curtailed. The Bureau's record has proved it efficient, of enormous benefit to the country, and deserving of the encouragement in­stead of the depreciation of every citizen.






In every city the Bureau causes flags to be flown from some prominent place so that a glance may show shippers and everybody who may be concerned at the shortest possible notice just what the approaching weather conditions are.


A plain white flag means fair weather.


A black triangle stands for temperature and is always exhibited with some other flag. Its relative position, either above or below indicates higher or lower temperature. Therefore white flag with the black below means fair and colder. The white flag with the black above means fair and warmer.


A white flag with a black square in the center means a cold wave.


A blue flag means either rain or snow.


The blue with the black above would mean rain or snow and warmer.


The blue with the black below would mean rain or snow and colder.


A blue and white flag means a local shower. The same meanings are attached to the black triangle in connection with the blue and white.


A red triangle indicates a dangerous local storm, is called the information flag meaning that shippers should apply to the Bureau for news of the direction in which the storm is trav­elling.


A red square with a black center means se­vere winds.


1.     Southwesterly with a white triangle below.


2.     Northwesterly with a white triangle above.


3.     Northeasterly with a red triangle above.


4.     Southeasterly with a red triangle below.



Maximum Temperature

     United States, 134 at Greenland Ranch, Cal., July, 1913.

     World, 134 at Greenland Ranch, Cal.

Minimum Temperature

     United States, -- 65 at Miles City, Mont., January, 1888.

     World, -- 98 at Verkhojansk, Siberia.

Absolute Zero of Space

     -459 degrees Fahrenheit.

Maximum Annual Precipitation

     United States, 167.29 inches at Glenora, Oreg., in 1896.

     World, 905.1 inches, Cherrapunji, India, 1861.

Maximum Monthly Precipitation

     United States, 71.5 inches at Helen Mine, Cal., January, 1909.

     World, 366 inches, Cherrapunji, India, July, 1861

Maximum 24 Hour Precipitation

     United States, 21 inches at Alexandria, La.

Minimum Annual Precipitation

     United States, none at Bagdad, Cal., in 1913.

     (Only 3.93 inches fell at Bagdad during period 1909 to 1913, inclu­sive.)

Maximum Annual Snowfall

     United States, 786 inches at Tamarack, Cal., 1911.

Maximum Monthly Snowfall

     United States, 390 inches at Tamarack, Cal., January, 1911.

Maximum Wind Velocity

     United States, 186 miles per hour at Mt. Washington, on Jan. 11, 1878.

     (Much higher velocities have undoubt­edly occurred in tornadoes, etc., but have not been sus­ceptible of instrumental measurement.)



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