Friday, April 11, 2008

What Really Brings May Flowers

“April showers bring May flowers.” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that old saying. My part of Washington State is actually fairly dry (only 6.5 inches of rain a year and most of it November through February), so, while there are showers in April, we actually have a lot of flowers up already. So did London and Bath when I visited in late February/early March, as you can see by this picture from Regent’s Park.

Nineteenth century teens would have heard their share of weather wisdom, passed down through the ages. For example, the Ladies Monthly Museum magazine in May 1816 reports these dire signs as predictions of “old Irish women”:

--When the raven croaks three or four times, extending his wings and shaking the leaves, look for serene weather.

--When the porpoises sport and take frequent leaps, the sea being tranquil and calm, the wind will blow from the quarter from which they proceed.

--If the dogs roll on the ground or lie on their right side, rain is on the way.

However, I cannot help wondering at the advice from the same magazine 2 years earlier (January 1814):

“From a curious and valuable little volume, lately published by Mr. Joseph Taylor under the title of The Complete Weather-Guide, we present our fair readers with the following extract, which, besides furnishing them with a useful fore-knowledge of the coming weather, may lead their minds to a pleasing and grateful contemplation on the wisdom and goodness which the all-bountiful Creator has displayed even in the meanest of his works.

“Put a leech into a large phial three parts full of clear rainwater: regularly change the same thrice a week; and let it stand on a window frame fronting the north. In fair and frosty weather, it will be motionless and rolled up in a spiral form at the bottom of the glass; but, prior to rain or snow, it will creep to the top, where, if the rain be heavy and of some continuance, it will remain a considerable time; if trifling, it will descend. Should the rain or snow be accompanied with wind, it will dart about its habitation with an amazing celerity and seldom cease, until the wind begins to blow hard.

“If a storm of thunder or lightning be approaching, it will be exceedingly agitated and express its feelings with violent convulsive starts at the top of the glass.”

Gosh, there’s a Spring Break project for you: make a leech barometer.

I think I’ll stick to the Weather Channel. What about you? Do you have some family weather predictors?


Marissa Doyle said...

Where I live in Massachusetts, the prevailing spring and summer wind direction is southwest. There was an old family farm less than half a mile from my childhood house, and we always knew when spring had arrived...the first southwest breeze of spring would carry the distinctive scent of Mr. George and his sons plowing composted cow poo into their fields. I still associate that scent with the coming of warmer weather.

They sold the BEST veggies from their farm stand. :)

mcadwell said...

I have found that if you see sundogs, you will have precipitation within 2 days. (It's because the upper atmosphere has enough moisture to cause the sundogs.)