Faith in weather lore pays

CAN there be a better topic to get people talking than the weather? 

This summer, especially, the horrid elements are providing a subject of conversation everywhere and our recent column on forecasting drew a big response.

From the reaction, there’s still a deal of interest in traditional weather lore and many people swear by signs from animals, plants and the moon — scientific forecasts from the met office notwithstanding.

Gerry McCarthy, writing from Dublin, agrees with the beliefs that when mountains appear near or when swallows are flying low, rain is on the way. The former Irish Press sports journalist was reared in view of The Comeraghs, in Co Waterford, so he ought to know.

He learnt a new piece of rural weather wisdom last April from a group of farmers in Dunboyne, Co Meath. They predicted an unsettled summer because of a profusion of dandelions, something he, too, had noticed in the Glasnevin area of Dublin where he lives.

“They were even growing on the edges of footpaths. Subsequent events have proved the accuracy of that forecast,’’ he says.

Others who have been in contact were mainly rural and farming folk who keep an observant eye on nature for weather signs. A new one for me was that when grass is dry in the morning, rain will come before night; when grass is wet, however, fine weather will continue. This also has a scientific explanation for the temperature of grass falls during the night when the air is dry and the cooling of the grass causes water vapour to fall as dew. The opposite is the case on nights when the sky is clouded and the air is humid, so that little or no dew falls.

If there’s a halo around the moon, it’s a sign of rain. The halo indicates a thin cloud sheet or the start of a warm front rain belt, so rain may be expected. Also, when there’s a clear moon, it’s a sign of frost. On such nights, there are no clouds to prevent the cooling of the earth’s surface, so temperatures drop and frost occurs.

Dr Patrick Cronin, a Sliabh Luachra native now living in Cork, has studied time-honoured weather lore at home and abroad. He agrees with the belief that if ants carry their eggs from an ant-hill to higher ground, it’s a harbinger of rain. Ants, like other creatures, , are highly sensitive to atmospheric changes and can anticipate rain sooner than man.

But, Dr Cronin rubbishes the beliefs that if a dog eats grass, it’s a sign of rain and if cows all face in the same direction, thunder is coming. Both beliefs “have no scientific support and must be dismissed as mere superstitions’’. He stresses, however, that country people have benefited from weather lore with a scientific basis.


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