Ask any old Pennsylvania Dutch farmer about the weather and they will undoubtedly tell you about their own methods for predicting the weather. These methods appear, on the surface, to be directly descended from superstition and local folklore; lacking any real scientific foundation. Yet, for many of us, these localized predictions have proven to be reliable and trustworthy, especially for the farming community of the Pennsylvania Germans.
Some of the more common weather predictive techniques are listed here. If you have any more, please send them my way!
For snow: Predicting frost and snow is a very big deal in Pennsylvania; especially if you're a farmer or gardener. Once October comes, we are on the lookout for the first snow fall.
Our pets give us our first clues: if your dog howls at the moon, expect the first snow fall soon! If your cat sits with her back to the fire, snow is on it's way!
Frost is a little trickier and requires a bit of calendar work. Once the katydids start singing, count 90 days. That's when the first frost hits! And if you're feeling really adventurous, count the number of mornings in August when fog covers the ground. That's how many snowfalls we will have come winter!
Keep your eye on the first 12 days of the year. Each of those days represents the weather of each corresponding month.
When the smoke stops rising up the chimney and instead fills up the house, snow is on it's way! It might also be an indicator that you need to sweep the chimney!
A ring around the moon usually indicates snow in the next three days. Two rings and it means snow is coming in 24 hours! Look out!
For rain: When the cows lay down in the fields during the day, rain is coming.
When your cat lays on it's head, rain will follow.
When your dog starts eating grass, it means rain is in the air. It might also mean he has a belly ache!
When the leaves show their backsides, a storm is approaching.
Northern winds signify cold and windy days.
Eastern winds signify powerful storms; even tornadoes.
Southern winds can mean lots of rain, but sometimes can be warm and pleasant.
Western winds are most favorable!
In the evening when the sky is red, the next day will be fair. In the morning, a red sky indicates storms. (Interesting note: believe it or not, this comes from the Bible. Jesus spoke about this method of prediction in Matthew)
The Moon: many of the old farmers believe the phase or appearance of the moon gives an indication of the weather to come.
Horns pointing up, rain within three days.
Horns pointing down signifies a dry spell.
If a woman goes out onto the fields during the waning of the moon, rain will spoil the crops. (Note: this is not so much a weather forecast as it is a type of hex).
A full moon obscured by clouds brings sunshine and dry weather.
And, of course, we can't forget the tried and true method of weather-prediction..... arthritis pain! "The rain's gonna make down, it pains me so!"
In Pennsylvania, weather patterns move from West to East. Here in South-Central Pennsylvania, we are often spared the harsher weather that our more northerly and western PA neighbors get. We are often referred to as the "snow hole" in the winter; meaning when everyone else in the state is shoveling out their cars, we are enjoying mild clear weather, with nary a flurry to be seen!