For Weather Info, Seek Nature and Start Counting

Since the early days, people have learned how to tap into nature’s clues about impending weather.  


What You Need To Know

  • Counting cricket chirps can tell you a lot about the outside temperature
  • If you start counting after you see lightning, you can figure out how far the lightning was
  • The width of the woolly worm’s rusty-colored band may give insight about the upcoming winter

Long ago, before technology, people depended on natural clues to help figure out the weather. There are many weather folklores that our ancestors coined, but let’s focus on the ones that involve a little math. 

What’s the Temperature Outside?

Temperatures influence cricket chirps. They chirp faster in warm weather and slower when it’s cold. Knowing this, you can get an estimate of the temperature outside by counting a cricket’s chirps.  

Physicist Amos Dolbear published an article back in 1897 called “The Cricket as a Thermometer.

In it, he refers to the rate of cricket chirps being in sync with temperatures. It is so much in sync that you can compute the temperature after counting the number of chirps per minute.

He developed Dolbear’s Law. The law was eventually simplified to counting the number of chirps in 15 seconds, then adding 40 to get the temperature outside in Fahrenheit.

So, if you count 30 cricket chirps in 15 seconds, add 40 to get an outside temperature of 70 degrees. Neat stuff, huh?

How Far Was That Lightning Bolt?

Every thunderstorm has lightning. The thundering boom you hear is the result of the rapid expansion and contraction of the air caused by the heat of the lightning bolt.  

Sometimes you may see a flash of lightning and immediately hear thunder. Other times, the thunder sounds delayed because the storm is farther away. With a little bit of math, you can figure out how far away lightning is from your area.  

According to the National Weather Service, it takes the sound of thunder roughly 5 seconds to travel a mile.

So, count the number of seconds between the sight of lightning and when you hear thunder. Divide that number by 5 to get an estimate of how many miles away the lightning is.  

Remember, if you can hear thunder, then you are close enough to get struck by lightning. So, when thunder roars, go indoors.

How Bad Will the Winter Be?

The “Woolly Bear” or “Woolly Worm” caterpillar is said to tell how severe winter will be by the width of the colored bands on its body. The bands consist of 13 segments with an orange rustic middle and black ends.  

According to folklore, if you count more orange segments, then winter will be mild. If you count more black segments, the winter will be more severe. 

There isn’t any scientific backing for this, but it’s interesting none-the-less. The best timing to catch these knick-named “winter weather prophets” is in the fall.