Weather ranks as the most talked-about topic in our daily lives. Nonetheless, we can do nothing to change it one way or the other. We can, though, become weather-savvy and learn about weather and how to predict changes.

This makes sense if for no other reason than to satisfy ourselves that even though we cannot affect our weather, we can at least become knowledgeable about it, to the point of making fairly accurate short-range predictions.

Any observant person can make rule-of-thumb comments regarding weather. For instance, my observing skills tell me that when a high-pressure system displaces a low-pressure system, winds are quite likely to follow. This knowledge comes in handy for a whole lot of reasons. For instance, boaters know, without even listening to the weather report, that during the first day of a high-pressure system, winds will pick up. This makes it easy to postpone a trip, at least for a few days. That’s because once a high-pressure (meaning good weather, clear, cerulean skies and few clouds) system arrives and stays in place, conditions will stabilize within a few days.

Casual observers also know that on a cloudy night dew probably won’t form on the ground. But on a clear night, dew, which this time of year means frost, will certainly form. This, too, is good to know. On mornings of heavy dew, walking afield means getting feet and legs wet. So it makes sense to dress appropriately, with water-resistant boots. By late morning, things will have dried out to the point that more comfortable footwear will suffice.

Regarding dew, it really does come down from above. To prove this, go out on a clear night and walk around on a lawn. Depending upon time of year, the grass will either be wet or frosty. But go under a tree and everything is dry. The problem of dew is a big one for amateur astronomers, since dew, falling on telescopes and eyepieces, ruins a night’s observing.

Some people put electric heaters on their telescopes and others, more pennywise, just place a towel over the telescope tube. But others might set up their scopes beneath a lawn umbrella, since beneath the umbrella, dew cannot settle.

Weather station

Indoor weather stations come in two forms; digital and mechanical. I use both. And both are useful. Some of the mechanical weather stations are more closely related to pieces of fine furniture than anything else. I got mine from True Value Hardware and it would fit in with any décor.

In the world of science, controls are of the utmost importance. This explains why we can set our barometer and then follow it as it rises or falls. A fast rise means high pressure, which means rain-free days, with possibly windy conditions. But we would have nothing to compare barometric changes to if we hadn’t begun at a certain point, or control.

Conversely, a falling barometer betokens a low-pressure system’s arrival. And the lower the barometer, the more severe weather the system may bring.

A complete home weather station also measures humidity. This allows us to determine when the time has arrived to break out the humidifier. People living with wood heat are particularly susceptible to problems from dry air. For musicians these range from reed problems and even cracks in the wood of musical instruments to wooden furniture literally falling apart as the wooden joints shrink in the dry heat.

Dry air also affects our health. Discomfort from ultra-dry air means dry, burning feelings in our sinuses. It also causes dry skin to become even drier. All this is predicated upon indoor humidity. But outdoor humidity has at least some bearing upon our indoor comfort level. A low-pressure system, perhaps with accompanying rain, does much to raise indoor humidity.

Indoor temperature, also indicated on a weather station, is local at best. That is, a thermometer or weather station placed high upon the wall will register higher than if it were lower down. Sometimes my indoor thermometer registers in the 80s, when in fact, indoor temperatures are really just at the comfort level, down in the low 70s.

It doesn’t do much good to set up a weather station and then ignore it. But by keeping tabs daily, it is possible to see trends, both indoor and outdoor, and from these trends, interpret to the point of making accurate short-range weather predictions.

Weather folklore

Before the advent of scientific weather instruments, people were still able to make fairly accurate, short-range weather forecasts. Some of these folk tools for weather observing were best remembered when put in verse and rhyme. Here are some useful ones:

“When the dew is on the grass, rain will never come to pass.”

“When the grass is dry at night, look for rain before

the light.”

“Evening red and morning gray

sends the traveler on his way.”

“Evening gray and morning red

sends the traveler home to bed.”

“Fog in the morning, bright sunny day.”

Weather lore abounds in rhymes, but lots of weather wisdom must simply be remembered or written down in a log. Here are some useful tips to bear in mind.

If a rooster crows standing on a fence or high place, it will clear. If on the ground it doesn’t count.

Rain seldom follows a heavy nighttime dew. So just remember: wet feet, dry head.

A clear western horizon, with no clouds, means that clouds in other places won’t bring rain.

In Maine and other eastern states a steady west wind means continued fair weather.

Look for rain when the wind blows from the east.

A ring around the moon portends significant rain within two days.

Tom’s tips

If you only want to remember one bit of weather folklore, concentrate upon this one. If smoke from a chimney or campfire rises straight and high, weather will continue fair. But when smoke hugs the ground, inclement weather is imminent.

You don’t even have to own a woodstove to use this bit of folk wisdom. A drive around town will disclose smoke from other people’s chimneys.

Finally, smoke, in addition to serving as an ersatz barometer, also indicates wind direction.