7 Weather Folklore Sayings – Can they predict the weather?

Rain Wellies Umbrella

St Swithins Day falls on July 15th each year.

According to tradition, whatever the weather is like on St Swithins Day – whether rainy or sunny – it will continue for the next 40 days and 40 nights.

This story originated with St. Swithin, the Bishop of Winchester in the Anglo-Saxon era. He requested to be buried outside where he said he might be subject ‘to the feet of passers-by and to the raindrops pouring from on high.’

However, on 15 July, more than a century later, his body was moved to an indoor shrine. A heavy shower began – said to be a result of the Saint’s anger at being moved – and legend says that the rain continued from for 40 days and nights!

St. Swithin’s day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain;
St. Swithin’s day, if thou be fair,
For forty days ’twill rain no more

Since records began however, there has been no occurrence of rainfall for such a prolonged period of time so this one is definitely a myth!

However, despite this one not being true, research carried out by the Met Office found that three quarters of UK adults say they do use folklore to predict the weather. Here are some of the most popular…


Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning.

Research found that 83% of Brits believe this to be true and the science supports this too. High pressure tends to bring good weather. High pressure also traps dust and dirt in the air, which scatters blue light, only leaving the red light remaining – which gives the sky its reddish appearance.

A red sky at sunset means high pressure is moving in from the west, so therefore the next day will usually be dry and pleasant. Red sky in the morning means a red sky appears due to the high-pressure weather system having already moved east meaning the good weather has passed, making way for a potentially wet and windy low-pressure system.

Cows lie down when it is going to rain.

Many believe that the site of cows lying down means there is rain on the way but, according to the Met Office, there is no scientific evidence for it at all. Cows lie down for a number of reasons, but there is no proof to link this behaviour with the likelihood of rainfall.


Rain before seven, fine by eleven

Many people believe that if it is raining at 7am, the weather will be fine by 11am and according to the Met Office, they are often correct, as four hours is often enough time for the rain brought by UK weather systems to pass. However, this doesn’t always apply, as there are times when rain can last much longer, particularly if there is a lack of wind.

It can be too cold to snow

There is some truth in this as the colder the air gets, the less water vapour there is in the air, reducing the likelihood of snow, says the Met Office. However, there are a number of other factors which contribute to whether it will snow or not, and it is unlikely that we would experience temperatures cold enough to make it less likely to happen in the UK.

Pine Cones

Pine cones open up when good weather is coming

This is one of the few sayings that is based on scientific fact. In dry weather, pine cones dry out, which causes their scales to stand out with a more “open” appearance. In wet weather, the scales curl up and the cones return to a more closed shape.

mackerel sky

Mackerel sky and mare’s tails make tall ships carry low sails

This weather proverb originates from a nautical background when different cloud types were used to determine whether sails needed to be lowered. Mackerel sky is associated with altocumulus clouds while ‘mare’s tails’ refer to cirrus clouds. Both could develop before the instance of a storm, which would lead to the lowering of the ship’s sails.


I look after communications and marketing at Dairy Diary. I’m a busy mum and love home baking and cooking for my family. In my spare time I enjoy visiting the theatre, eating out with friends and exploring the great outdoors!

Leave a Reply

Dairy Diary
Close Cookmode