When you are out on a day hike or maybe spending a weekend outdoors, you need to be prepared for what the weather has in store for you. In many regions, the weather is truly unpredictable.
It can be sunny and warm one minute and a few minutes later it is pouring rain and the temperature drops 15 degrees. While it would be nice to blame the weatherman, there are pop up rain showers, thunderstorms and even high winds that seemingly come from nowhere.
Every time you head outside for some outdoor adventure, you must be prepared for the weather. Not knowing what to expect could leave you in a precarious situation. You need to be ready to take shelter the moment you see bad weather headed your way. Basically, you need to become your own weatherman.
Your grandparents may have been able to predict without error when the rain was coming or when a storm was brewing. You may not have seen a cloud in the sky at the time, but they knew. How did they know?
Wisdom and experience come with years of living in an area and learning the weather patterns. Everything from the way nature sounds, feels, smells and looks like needs to be taken into consideration when you are predicting what Mother Nature has in store for you.
The following signs are some of what a meteorologist uses to predict the weather for you every day.
You won’t have the advantage of numerous instruments and satellites, but you can still get pretty good at forecasting.
Low air pressure brings in clouds and storms. High air pressure usually means the sky is clear and it is going to be a nice day. If you didn’t pack a barometer with you (not exactly a common piece of gear in the bag) you can judge air pressure by watching the smoke from your campfire. If it rises up, up and away, you are in a high pressure system. If the smoke seems to spread out instead of up, you are dealing with low pressure and should expect some clouds to come in if they haven’t already.
There are plenty of sayings about this one. Basically, a red sky in the morning indicates there is low pressure and the day will likely be cloudy and stormy. A red sky at sunset indicates there is high pressure and the following day will likely be fair and clear. One of the ways to remember the red sky situation is the following saying; red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.
A low pressure system brings in the clouds, but what kind of clouds are you dealing with? Clouds can tell you a lot more about the weather than any other method. There are several different types of clouds. You have probably seen these clouds a hundred times and have a pretty good idea what they mean. The clouds are your best predictor of bad weather.
- Cirrus clouds are the flimsy white clouds high up in the sky on a clear day. They are a good predictor that the weather will stay fair.
- Cumulonimbus clouds are low and they look heavy. These clouds indicate rain, hail, thunder and lightning.
- Cumulus clouds look like piles of fluffy cotton. Generally, they are a sign of good weather when there is lots of blue sky in between. However, if they start to clump together and turn dark, you are in for some heavy rain.
- Cirrocumulus clouds resemble a lake with lots of ripples. The clouds tend to float away or dissipate leaving behind clear blue skies. They are an indicator of good weather.
- Altocumulus are those small clouds that resemble cotton balls. These are the clouds that roll in after a storm and indicate the bad weather is gone and you can prepare for good weather.
- Cirrostratus start off as the stratus clouds, but when they form together and make a ring around the sun, you can expect rain or snow. If it is cold, expect snow.
- Altostratus clouds resemble transparent bits of material stretched over the sun or moon. These are clouds to watch. If they start to lose that transparency and darken, rain is on the way.
- Nimbostratus clouds are those heavy, pillowy clouds that are low in the sky. They indicate rain or snow, depending on the season.
- Stratocumulus clouds are light and fluffy and tend to hang around for a bit, sprinkle some rain and then move out of the area.
- Stratus clouds are those low clouds that tend to hang around mountain peaks and valleys. They can make it miserable, wet and cold out. If they are there first thing in the morning after developing overnight, there is a good chance they will burn up by mid morning and you will be left with clear skies.
You can watch the animals to see what they think of the weather. They have a natural instinct that lets them know when bad weather is coming in. Butterflies and bees will stay out of sight if there is rain on the way.
Swallows will fly nice and low, knowing it is going to rain and the insects will be easy pickings. Birds tend to become very quiet before a thunderstorm. In fact, the entire area will be quiet with all of the animals already taking shelter from the incoming storm.
Studying the clouds and learning how to predict the weather is fun, family activity. It will be useful information for your kids to learn. Imagine they are at the park playing and you know a storm is coming, but they don’t listen to the weather. They will be able to look at the clouds and know when to head home so they don’t get soaked by the rain or caught in a heavy snowstorm.