Ask Greg

Weather Questions tagged “folklore”

(remove tag filter)

Question: I live in The Villages, Florida and it appears that weather, particularly thunderstorms, tend to go around the Villages. We don't get as much rain as the surrounding area. I am told that radiation from the roofs of 50000 closely packed homes can affect weather patterns. — Barry Connell

Answer: It's certainly the case that the character of the surface can impact the lower atmosphere and therefore weather patterns in any given location, especially in the way of microclimates. However, it can be difficult to attribute something like the sense of storms going around a given location to a particular cause without a very detailed investigation. More commonly, there is a perception that storms often go around any given point because of the frequently scattered distribution of thunderstorm cells and clusters, their rapid variability in terms of size and intensity, and the tendency for radar depictions of those storms to make them appear to cover more area than they really do. We find here in central North Carolina, that people from almost every part of our viewing area perceive that storms preferentially split or dissipate when approaching their location, and reform farther downstream. We did note than in the Florida peninsula, there is a drier axis that stretches from a little north of your location all the way to the southern end of the state, with higher average rainfall closer tot he coasts to either side. We suspect this is a reflection of thunderstorms that often form along the sea breeze, progress inland and deplete some of their initial moisture and energy before reaching the interior sections of the state. For someone centrally located like yourself, this could result in a number of times when storms approaching from either the east or west would diminish in coverage before arriving.
Aug. 9, 2016 | Tags: folklore, general meteorology, thunderstorms

Question: When is the thermal Equinox in Raleigh? — Don Wollum

Answer: We aren't aware that there is a physical or statistical property called thermal equinox, and the only thing that turned up in a web search was someone's informal, kind of joking, definition on a chat page. That being said, we wonder if you're looking for something along the lines of that person's take on the term, which was the halfway point during the year between warmest and coldest average temperatures. If that's what you had in mind, then for Raleigh those points come on April 16th and Oct 18th, when our average temperature is closest to 60.4 degrees. This number arises from splitting the difference between our warmest average temperature of the year (80.3, which occurs July 14-17) and our coldest (40.5, which occurs from January 5-12).
Jul. 21, 2016 | Tags: folklore, normals

Question: I was searching some weather facts and I found this: (not sure how realistic this is... On this date (April 16, 1851) The Famous Lighthouse storm hit Boston Harbor, MA. Said it destroyed the Minot Lighthouse and its keepers and the tide exceeded a staggering height of..get this...1,723 feet??? really??..I'm not sure a cat five hurricane and two 8.o magnitude earthquakes at the same time could do anything like that... so is this real..or really been told a loooottttt of times and you know how those things go. — David

Answer: We appreciate you calling our attention to an interesting story about about an intense nor'easter that swept the Massachusetts coast in April of 1851. This occurred Just four years after the start of construction on Minot's Ledge Lighthouse, and only about a year after it was completed, and resulted in the toppling of the light and loss of two assistant keepers. Strong nor'easters and tropical cyclones tend to lead to the highest tides in the region, and the 1851 event is one of the highest on record for the area. However, as you surmised, 1723 feet would be an impossibly high surge, or storm tide level. We think you misread a date as a tide level in this case, since the 1861 storm, which resulted in a storm tide that reached about 10.4 feet above mean sea level, was remarked upon at the time as the highest water seen since a powerful February nor'easter produced a storm tide of about 11.4 feet in the year 1723.
Apr. 22, 2016 | Tags: flooding, folklore, past weather

Question: Over the Christmas holiday, we had several claps of thunder with lightning. Everybody loves to say, "Thunder in winter means snow in 10 days (number varies)." I recall that you explained the science behind this old saying. Would you mind sharing it again? — Liz

Answer: As you noted, there is some physical reasoning behind that old saying. It doesn't make for all that reliable a predictor, but there is some truth to the idea that snow is more likely when we have recently had a pattern that produces wintertime thunderstorms. This has to do with the same kinds of very wavy (we call them "meridional flow") upper-level patterns being able to both pull warm, moist air into the region from the south to fuel instability and storms with lightning, and as the waves move along, subsequently being able to draw cold air from the north far enough south to give us a chance at wintry precipitation. When we are in patterns with a flatter, generally west to east, upper-level winds (called "zonal flow"), we may have some cloudiness at times and occasionally some rain or light showers, but in that pattern our temperatures don't tend to stray too far above or below normal, and we rarely have thunder or snow.

A while back, we worked with the State Climate Office of North Carolina to look into some statistics relating to this old "rule of thumb," and found, for example, that on any given day in the winter at the RDU airport, there is about a 1 in 16 chance that snow will occur in the window of 7-10 days later. On the other hand, for a day when thunder is observed, the chance of snow 7-10 days later is about 1 in 8. So, the occurrence of thunder in the winter appears to roughly double the chance that snow occurs in the next 7-10 days. However, that chance is still low enough that many times it will not happen.
Jan. 20, 2016 | Tags: folklore, snow, thunderstorms

Question: I know the old wives tale about it thundering in winter and then we are supposed to get snow in 10 days. Is there anything different when it has thundered 3 times already today? Should we be expecting a blizzard in this area within 10 days? — Audra Gupton

Answer: You were writing about storms that happened on December 30th. We don't know that there's any relation between the number of storms and the intensity of any ensuing snow, but there is some reasoning behind the old wives tale. It doesn't make for all that reliable a predictor, but there is some truth to the idea that snow is more likely when we have recently had a pattern that produces wintertime thunderstorms. This has to do with the same kinds of very wavy upper-level flow patterns being able to both pull warm, moist air into the region from the south to fuel storms with lightning, and subsequently being able to draw cold air from the north far enough south to give us a chance at wintry precipitation.

A while back, we worked with the State Climate Office of North Carolina to look into some statistics relating to this old "rule of thumb," and found, for example, that on any given day in the winter at the RDU airport, there is about a 1 in 16 chance that snow will occur in the window of 7-10 days later. On the other hand, for a day when thunder is observed, the chance of snow 7-10 days later is about 1 in 8. So, the occurrence of thunder in the winter appears to roughly double the chance that snow occurs in the next 7-10 days. However, that chance is still low enough that many times it will not happen.
Jan. 9, 2016 | Tags: folklore, snow, thunderstorms

Question: I think this question has been asked many times but one more time please. How accurate is the Old Farmers Almanac and the Farmers Almanac? I know they missed this week. — Angela

Answer: That's pretty hard to pin down, really, and it's worth remembering that they haven't provided scientific information describing the process they us to arrive at the outlooks. 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.

Jan. 4, 2016 | Tags: folklore, general meteorology

Question: Not a question. This weather reminds me of September Gales we use to have when I was a child; brings back good memories. — Linda

Answer: You're referring to the cool, breezy and wet weather we settled into for a while recently after a stretch of warm, dry conditions. We have to admit, we weren't familiar with a particular term for the pattern like "September Gales," but upon doing a bit of checking around, found that it was an old time term used in the eastern U.S. to describe exactly that kind of turn in the weather, often at least partially as a result of a tropical system passing by to the east. Accounts of the phenomenon mention a combination of welcome and concern on the part of farmers, who, for example, would be glad for the break from warm weather and the possibility of needed rain, but also wary of rain that became too heavy and winds too strong, perhaps damaging cotton crops just before harvest. The pattern that we recently experienced wasn't related to a tropical system, but rather to a front that stalled offshore and interacted with a non-tropical low pressure wave.
Oct. 1, 2015 | Tags: folklore, rain, winds

Question: Since we may not be able to directly view the lunar eclipse on Sunday due to the weather, can you suggest a website where we can watch a live picture of the eclipse? — Margie Cannity

Answer: We can indeed. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center will stream live images accessed from several locations around the country (to better the chances of having cleasr skies in at least some of them) at www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc beginning at 8PM EDT. You can read much more about the eclipse and some local events (just in case the anticipated clouds break up) in the recent WeatherCenter Blog post at wral.com/14923594/.
Sep. 27, 2015 | Tags: astronomy, atmospheric optics, folklore

Question: Some years back, I was staying the night with my mother. This was in a house in rural Franklin County that I grew up in. On this particular night we had a power failure but not from a storm. I looked out of the window to the West, up the hill. Between her house and the power lines were many, many lights, almost like fireflies but larger (it was not firefly season). I have always been curious as to what this could have been. The area was once used as a cow pasture. What would I google to try to find out what may have caused this. — Cathy Loy

Answer: We don't know the date, so couldn't check specific weather conditions for the time you're asking about. A follow-up message indicated you couldn't be sure if some storms were in the area, although the power outage was not storm-related. Any explanation we suggest looking into is pretty speculative, then, but a few things come to mind. First would be the idea of a display of St Elmo's Fire, a glowing electrical discharge that can occur under certain conditions involving a strong ambient electric field, usually when there are some storms in the vicinity. Under ideal conditions, which are very rare, there could have been glowing lights visible from the power lines, the tips of barbed wire fences, antennas, lightning rods, even some blades of grass or the corners of leaves. Although it seems even less likely and on the whole is not a well-understood or documented phenomena, you might like to read up on "swamp gas" or "will o' the wisp" sightings. Finally, we wondered if the hill you looked out upon might have been filled with any weeds or other plants with small white or bright yellow flowers, such that, in the absence of any powered lights indoors or out, your highly dark-adjusted eyes might have perceived them as glowing simply in light from the moon or even starlight, assuming skies were mostly clear.
Sep. 26, 2015 | Tags: atmospheric optics, folklore

Question: I just saw on Facebook that the time changes back next week. I live in Roanoke Rapids. Time usually changes in October. What is the time change? — Tracie Hammack

Answer: We've seen that pop up here and there as well. however, the actual date for switching from Daylight to Standard time is still a couple of months away. We will "fall back" to Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, November 1st at 2 AM.
Sep. 3, 2015 | Tags: folklore, preparedness

Questions 1 - 10 of 88.


Ask Greg Your Question Now!

Please understand that the volume of Ask Greg questions makes it impossible to answer every one or to list them all here. You may find it helpful to search for your own question using the form at the top of this page to see if it has been posted in our database.

When you submit a question you understand that your question and e-mail address will be sent to our editorial staff. Accordingly your question will not be subject to the privacy policy of this site.