Britons’ faith in weather lore leaves meteorologists scratching heads
LONDON — Nearly twothirds of people in Britain believe cows laying down on the grass is a sign it’s about to rain.
It is just one of many folklore beliefs many British people have used over generations to gauge the weather. Meteorologists at the Met Office put the beliefs under the microscope, and gave their verdict on Tuesday.
It seems some old-fashioned methods of predicting the forthcoming weather turned out to be true.
More than 60 percent of Britons believe cows really do lie down when it’s about to rain, while three-quarters of the British public have used folklore such as “red sky at night, shepherd’s delight” to predict the weather.
“The British public’s fascination with the weather is well-known. We found in a new survey that the use of these sayings was more prevalent than expected, with three quarters of UK adults saying they use folklore to predict the weather,” said a spokesman for the Met Office.
The most commonly-used sayings were: “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight” (used by 70 percent of adults); “It can be too cold to snow” (49 percent); “Cows lie down when it is about to rain” (44 percent); and “Pine cones open up when good weather is coming” (26 percent).
And almost a quarter believe the claim that if it rains on St Swithin’s Day, July 15, it will rain on each of the next 40 days.
Fifty-eight percent of adults think that these methods are accurate to some degree, with almost two thirds believing they can be more reliable than official forecasts.
However, nearly half of adults who have used traditional methods to predict the weather say they have been “caught out”.
Met Office meteorologist Charlie Powell, who investigated the science behind the folklore, said: “We were blown away by just how many people use traditional methods to forecast the weather. However, some of these weather sayings are backed up by science and can help to give a sense of what sort of weather may be on its way. Others, such as cows lying down when it is about to rain, are nothing more than old wives’ tales.”
“But either way, none of the methods are as accurate as official forecasts and the research demonstrates that many people have been caught out by relying on weather folklore,” added Powell.
So which of the folklore methods are based on science and which are simply myths?
Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight, meaning good weather, is according to the Met Office, largely correct. This is because high pressure tends to lead to good weather. High pressure traps dust and dirt in the air, which scatters blue light, only leaving the red light remaining, hence the reddish appearance of the sky.
But cows laying down when it is about to rain is untrue, says the Met Office. Cows lie down for a number of reasons, including just having a rest, and there is no evidence to suggest it is related to the likelihood of rain.
of people in Britain believe cows lie down when it is about to rain, according to the study. The Met Office said there is no evidence to suggest this is true.