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Weather Questions tagged “folklore”

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Question: Does the Farmers Almanac have any science behind it? — David Copperwheat

Answer: It doesn't appear so, as they have not described the methods involved beyond what is written at, which boils down to saying there is a secret formula developed in 1818 that only one person knows the details of. Several groups through the years have undertaken efforts to verify the accuracy of the forecasts, which can be difficult due to the lack of detail and the large geographic areas referenced by the outlooks, and generally found the forecasts verify about the same as if they were randomly generated, or based on typical variations around seasonal averages.

Aug. 30, 2014 | Tags: cool sites, folklore

Question: You recently showed the view at the airport with the bright sky in the background, but the icon still showed rain and you explained the time delay was responsible. However, in Southern Pines that day, there was a brief, isolated rain shower around 5 p.m. when the sun was getting low. For a time, it was raining and at the same time the sun was shining and casting shadows on the ground as the drops fell. This happens often in the Sandhills area I've noticed. We've always called it a sunshower. Is there a technical term for this? It's also an old wives' tale that the devil is beating his wife. — Ann Hopkins

Answer: There really isn't any special technical word or phrase for this, as it is just a form of rain or a rain shower. However, the "sunshower" term you mentioned is pretty well known as an informal way to refer to such an event, and we've heard of the "Devil beating his wife" reference as well, although we've been unable to turn up where that idea may have originated. While precipitation with some direct sun can occur under a variety of circumstances, it's most common with scattered, fairly small convective cells that quickly grow and dissipate in unstable airmasses, allowing for gaps between the clouds. In addition, if the clouds have fairly high bases and there is some wind shear between the cloud and the ground, it can be raining at the surface with blue sky directly overhead. Finally, these situations can be good for seeing rainbows, provided the sun is low enough in the sky.
Aug. 27, 2014 | Tags: atmospheric optics, clouds, folklore, rain

Question: What is the likelihood of a Sharknado ever coming to Raleigh? How would I prepare my family to survive such a meteorological disaster? — Alex DiLalla

Answer: You may have thought we'd just ignore this question, but... we'll bite! We expect that likelihood is low enough that the only place a Sharknado will occur in Raleigh is in pictures on various sorts of screens. If you really want to protect your family just the same, you might consider investing in some of that chain-mail armored clothing, as seen, for example, at
Aug. 12, 2014 | Tags: folklore

Question: We hear and see many weather patterns impacted by the I-95 corridor. Why does the rain, snow, split/dump directly over the I-95 Corridor? It seems the Highway has an impact/effect on the weather. Is it pollution from the traffic, heat from the asphalt? Why? — Kathy Lamm

Answer: The I-95 corridor happens to lie along a zone in which typical meteorological patterns related to the geography of our region (mountains to our west and the Atlantic to our east, along with a transition from the higher, hillier Piedmont to the lower and flatter coastal plain, all of which run more or less parallel with that highway) and that of the Unites States in general, frequently leads to airmass boundaries, frontal zones and precipitation type, coverage or intensity transitions in that general area. The highway itself has little if anything to do with this, but does serve as a convenient, widely-known marker for quickly describing the location of these focused events or transition zones.
Aug. 8, 2014 | Tags: folklore, general meteorology, maps & codes

Question: Can a tornado pick up a cow? — Mike

Answer: That's been a pretty common image since the movie Twister popularized it. Like any other object or creature in some of the most intense tornadoes, there is no reason a cow can not be picked up and thrown considerable distances, and there are reports of this happening, much the same as with automobiles, trucks and other fairly heavy objects. Maintaining objects in the air and carrying them miles, or dozens of miles, away from where they were picked up is generally limited to much lighter and less dense objects, such as papers, photos, insulation, clothing and the like.
Jun. 10, 2014 | Tags: folklore, tornadoes

Question: Is it true that a tornado will not touch down at a location if it is currently raining there? — Laura

Answer: That is not a good assumption to make, as it is possible to have what are known as "rain wrapped" tornadoes that are heavily enshrouded in a curtain or shaft of rain. In addition, even in the case of a storm in which the tornado is exposed and located outside of an area where rain is reaching the ground, it is quite possible for that tornado to move across an area where rain was falling just minutes earlier.
May. 28, 2014 | Tags: folklore, preparedness, tornadoes

Question: We all know the saying.. Red sky at night, sailors delight Red sky in morning, sailors take warning. What is the significance of a red sky? — Anonymous

Answer: A very simple rule of thumb like that one can't be expected to verify in every case, but that doesn't mean it has no scientific basis. Since mid-latitude weather systems generally travel from west to east, early evening sunlight shining red upon clouds overhead or to the east can indicate a departing storm system that will continue to move away and leave "delightful" weather in its wake, and vice versa for reddened morning light shining from low in the east onto clouds ahead of an approaching storm system to the west. The complexity of the atmosphere ensures that there are many exceptions to this.
May. 18, 2014 | Tags: folklore, general meteorology

Question: Would love to know your thoughts on Blackberry Winter. Seems like we always have it around the first week of May, but this has been such an unusual winter/spring and your forecast looks great! — Binks Mew

Answer: That term is an informal reference to a period of notably cooler-than-normal weather that sets in during the later spring (sometime during the period of late April to early June) when blackberry plants tend to be either flowering or producing fruit. We've certainly had a few pushes of unseasonably cool weather lately that could conceivably fit the description, especially around mid-April and for a couple of days in early May.
May. 11, 2014 | Tags: cold, folklore

Question: I saw a red sky this morning. Any scientific support to the old saying "red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors delight? — Jason

Answer: A simple rule of thumb like that one can't be expected to verify in every case, but that doesn't mean it has no scientific basis. Since mid-latitude weather systems generally travel from west to east, early morning sunlight shining red upon clouds overhead or to the west can indicate an approaching storm system, and vice versa for departing systems in the evening, but there are many exceptions to this.
Apr. 5, 2014 | Tags: folklore, general meteorology

Question: I heard recently that if snow stays on the ground for three or more days it will snow again that winter. Is this true? — Nicki Ragland

Answer: We aren't aware of anyone having run statistics to confirm or refute that rule of thumb, but it seems like one that may have arisen simply because snows that linger on the ground for a longer period would often involve happening during the colder average temperatures of mid-winter (when there is ample time for more snow-producing systems to occur before winter is over), or a reflection of the occurrence of an especially heavy snow that may have been produced as one episode within a larger scale pattern that locks in for a stretch of time and is supportive of a cluster of closely spaced snow events. It seems quite likely, however, that there have been plenty of times when at least some snow on the ground for three or more days has turned out to be the last of the season.
Mar. 11, 2014 | Tags: folklore, snow

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