Thursday, April 12, 2012

Original Weather Forecasters

by Paty Jager

Do you watch TV to learn about the weather? I do part of the time and usually the weather forecasters are wrong, but if I go by the clouds or lack thereof hanging on the Cascade Mountain range I can pretty much tell what kind of weather we'll have. So the first thing I do in the morning is look out the windows pointing west and see what's coming at us from the ocean.
The Nez Perce Indians of NE Oregon, SE Washington, and central Idaho taught their children at a young age how to observe the signs of nature. Animals, insects, birds, the moon, and the sunset all helped them determine or predict the weather. 

They believed to kill spiders would cause rain. If clouds in a sunset appeared red it would storm the next day. If the clouds were orange it would be a nice day. If the moon appeared upside down or face up it meant good weather. If the moon faced down there would be rainy weather.

These are all things I learned while researching the Nez Perce Indians for my spirit trilogy.

Some other fun information I found about Native American weather forecasting is:

1. If a muskrat builds his house toward the edge of the lake it means we will have a mild winter.
Logic: A muskrat needs open water to get out of his house.  So if he builds near the edge of the lake, it means he knows that there won’t be a long hard freeze.

2. If a muskrat builds his house toward the middle of the
lake, we will have a long winter.
Logic:  A muskrat will build in deep water so it will
          not freeze, because he could not get out of his house
          if there is going to be a long, hard freeze.

3. If snakes stay around in late fall, we will have a long fall.
Logic: Snakes hibernate in the winter, so this can
be used as an indicator of the length of the fall.

4. If rabbits keep their gray colors unusually long, we will
have a long fall.
Logic:  Since they turn white in winter, we can use
        them as an indicator of when winter is coming.
5. If rabbits turn white early, we will have an early winter.
Logic: Same as #4.

6. When summer birds linger longer than usual, we will
have a long fall.

7. If the little birds arrive early in February or March, we
      will have an early spring.
8. If crows are seen in February there will be an early spring.
Logic: For these last three the logic is the same.
Birds follow instinctive migratory patterns and routes at various times of the year.  Their arrival and departure are indicators of the seasons to those who observe them.
9. When leaves on the ash trees turn upward it will rain.
Logic:  Moisture in the air affects the position of some types of leaves.
   10.  When cranes return southward in the early fall, we will
           have a storm.
Logic: Cranes always move ahead of a storm.

11.  A chattering squirrel is a call for rain.
  Logic: This is more of a sign that it will rain than a
                   call for rain.  Squirrels will chatter while    
                   gathering or eating food.  They eat and store
                   food before a rainstorm.
12. If the quarter moon starts to tip downward it will rain.
Logic: The moon affects the weather of the earth.
When it is tipped down this signifies the dumping of

13. If the quarter moon tips upward we will have dry
Logic: Opposite of #12.

14. During the fall, if a larger rainbow ring is noticed, we
will have a storm.

  Logic:  Ice crystals cause a halo effect which can be
                  seen before rain or a storm.

Source:SDEA/NEA South Dakota Native American K-6 Curriculum Project


  1. Paty, nice post but you forgot to remove the HTML from the import.

  2. That's interesting It isn't showing up on my computer but I'll change it.

  3. Now it's fixed, Paty. One you left out that I know is that if the sunflowers tilt toward the sun, we will have sunny weather. If they tilt down, it will rain.

  4. I love this post, Paty! What terrific info and proof that animals are so very smart!

    I always love learning about the Nez Perce, my favorite tribe. Chief Joseph is one of my heroes.

  5. Thanks Caroline. I'm sure there are many more.

    Thanks Tanya!

  6. Paty , thanks for posting this. I remember when I was growing up being told not to kill spiders, it would bring rain. Now I know where that 'old wives' tale' comes from. But I was also told, "red sky at morning, shepherds' warning, red sky at night, shepherds' delight" That seems to counter what you've got.

  7. Hi Paty,

    Great tips on early weather forecasting. I pay attention to the land around me. Driving up I-84through the Columbia River Gorge and then along the high desert plateau it is important to note the trees, grasses, and birds to get a sense of how hard the wind is blowing so I don't get caught by a gust coming through a gap in the hills and get blown off the road. The east winds can be brutal.

  8. Except it was sailors, not shepherds, I learned the same rhyme as A.D.

    I love weather trivia -- I follow The Weather Network on Twitter -- so I love this post.

  9. This is very interesting, Paty.

    I know someone who was a meterologist and she said the only job where we get paid and are wrong. lol

  10. This is so interesting, Paty! These methods are probably ten times more accurate than the weathermen today who never have it right.

  11. A.D., My mom quoted "Red sky at night sailor's delight, Red sky in morn sailor be warned. Which is opposite of what I found the Nez Perce believed. Thanks for stopping in!
    BTW- My dad said he had uncles who were named- A.D.and O.B. so you're initials intrigued me.

    Hi Judith, Birds are an excellent way to watch the weather.

    Thanks Alison!

    Vickie, I've heard other people say the same thing about meteorologists.

    I agree, Kristen!

  12. Hey Paty, it's your pal from TWRP, Andrea Downing. Blogger won't let me sign in with my wordpress account so I have to sign in with Google which comes up as A.D. Regarding the sailors' vs. shepherds, I think I discovered from someone else that the sailors are American and the shepherds are English!!

  13. How interesting, Paty. Since we live in the mountains, we are always interested in the weather during the winter. We don't like to leave for a long time if snow is expected. We don't have a heater so it is important to not let the house get too cold. Our squirrels never turn white. I found that one interesting. Those animals are quite smart and we notice some years the squirrels gather a lot more nuts.

  14. LOL, Andrea! Okay, now I can call you by name. Well the initials still jogged my memory. That's interesting about the shepards and sailors.

    Thanks, Gerri!

    Paisley, the Indians were so in tune to nature I believe that's why they taught all this to their children. It's good you've learned to use the animals to determine the weather.

  15. Hi Paty! These "signs" are always so interesting. Here in the sticks, everyone says we're going to have a bad winter if the wooly worms are unusually black. There are always hundreds of them crawling across the roads in the fall.

    An indicator of stormy weather approaching (and I've found this one is usually true) is if the maple leaves turn up their leaves and show the white undersides. They do this when the wind currents are blowing upward, which usually ushers in some weather.

    Great post!

  16. COOL info, Paty! I know I saw squirrels going NUTS for nuts one summer mid-July and August, and we sure had a ROUGH winter that year. Last summer they played around till October, finally started gathering. Mild winter here for us. Go figure.

  17. Fun information. I had to chuckle at number 3. If snakes are around in late fall, it's already been a long fall. ;)

  18. Great additions, Devon!

    Thanks for commenting Meg.

    Hey Lauri, Yeah, that is kind of funny.

  19. Those are wonderful weather sign tips. A halo around the moon will predict rain in three days. The upper atmospheric ice creates the halo. A weatherman passed on that tidbit. My dad was a meteorologist and he often checked the Farmer's Almanac against the weather predicitons just to see how accurate it was--and it was very accurate. Isn't weather fascinating?
    I enjoyed your blog.

  20. Sarah,
    I find it amazing that the Farmer's Almanac is actually more accurate then the local weather men.

  21. Hi, Paty--I finally got here! And I'm glad I did, too. In the days before central heat and A/C, and when you couldn't drive your car to the corner store for groceries, it was imperative to be prepared for whatever weather came around. I find these nature signs fascinating! Thanks, Paty!

  22. Thanks for stopping in Jacquie!

    Hi Pat. Yes, it you think about it they all are just plain common sense.


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