Through Crystal Skies and Windy Nights

Finland’s weather and light
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Oral and written history is full of rhymes , anecdotes , and adages meant to guide the uncertain in determining whether the next day will bring fair or foul weather. For the farmer wanting to plant crops, for the merchant about to send ships on trade, foreknowledge of tomorrow's circumstances might mean the difference between success and failure. Prior to the invention of the mercury barometer , it was very difficult to gather numerical data of any predictive value. Even though there were devices such as the weather stick which gave some indication of moisture changes, the only instrument of any reliability was human experience.

A great percentage of the world's population lives in the equatorial regions, [3] but for the most part, these regions do not experience weather as it is understood by this definition.

The Sahara in northern Africa, for instance, is almost uniformly hot, sunny and dry all year long especially due to the non-stop presence of high atmospheric pressure aloft, whereas weather trends on the Indian subcontinent and in the western Pacific , for instance, the monsoonal belt, occur gradually over the very long term, and the diurnal weather patterns remain constant. Weather folklore , therefore, refers to this mid-latitude region of daily variability. While most of it applies equally to the Southern Hemisphere , the Southern Hemisphere resident may need to take into account the fact that weather systems rotate opposite to those in the North.

For instance, the "crossed winds" [4] rule see below must be reversed for the Australian reader. Folkloric content usually has some locally based observational validity which allows these sayings to stand the test of time. Some of these observations may even have scientific explanations. Below are some of such examples. Thick, moisture laden storm clouds absorb sunlight. It gives them an appearance that somewhat resembles black smoke.

Weather lore

A red sky — in the morning or evening, is a result of high pressure air in the atmosphere trapping particles of dust or soot. Air molecules scatter the shorter blue wavelengths of sunlight, but particles of dust, soot and other aerosols scatter the longer red wavelength of sunlight in a process called Rayleigh scattering. At sunrise and sunset, the sun is lower in the sky causing the sunlight to travel through more of the atmosphere so scattering more light.

When weather systems predominantly move from west to east , a red sky at night indicates that the high pressure air and better weather is westwards. In the morning the light is eastwards, and so a red sky then indicates the high pressure and better weather has already passed, and an area of low pressure is following behind.

In western European seas, this description of wind direction is an excellent illustration of how the weather events of an active low pressure area [8] present themselves.

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With the approach of a low, easterly winds typically pick up. These gusty winds can be unpleasant for a number of reasons; they are often uncomfortably warm, dry, and dusty in the summer and bitterly cold in the winter. Northerly winds, which follow around a low, are cold and blustery. Sailing in conditions of northerly winds requires expertise and a boat capable of handling heavy waves. Southerly winds usually bring warm temperatures, and though they may not necessarily feed the fish, they do provide pleasant fishing weather.

The best circumstance, however, is to have a westerly wind blowing; the wind condition is likely to persist for some time, the weather should remain fair and clear, and the wind should be relatively constant. Wind and weather observations will be different for a low passing to the north of the observer than for one passing to the south. When a low passes to the north, the winds typically pick up from the east, swing to southerly possibly accompanied by light precipitation, usually not with the passage of the low's warm front, and then switch to northwesterly or westerly as the cold front passes.

Typically, if there is any heavy precipitation, it will accompany the passage of the cold front. When a low passes to the south, on the other hand, winds will initially pick up from the east, but will gradually shift to northerly. Overcast skies and steady precipitation often occur as the center of the low passes due south, but skies will clear and winds will gradually become westerly as the low moves off to the east.

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The warning will include where the storm was occurring, its direction of movement and the primary threat from the storm. Its measurement can be expressed in several ways. Although clearing usually occurs after passage, some conditions may produced fog in the warm air. A severe blizzard is characterized by temperatures near or below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, winds exceeding 45 mph, and visibility reduced by snow to near zero. Very early this year.

No observer will experience all the weather elements of a low in a single passage. Calm conditions, especially with clear skies, indicate the dominance of a high pressure area. Because highs are broad regions of descending air, they discourage the formation of phenomena typically associated with weather, such as clouds, wind, and precipitation. Calm conditions, though, may also result from a circumstance known as "the calm before the storm," in which a large thunderstorm cell to the west may be updrafting the westerly surface wind before it can arrive locally.

This situation is readily identifiable by looking to the west — such an approaching storm will be close enough to be unmistakable. A halo around the Sun or Moon is caused by the refraction of that body's light by ice crystals at high altitude. Such high-level moisture is a precursor to moisture moving in at increasingly lower levels, and is a good indicator that an active weather system is on its way. Halos typically evolve into what is known as "milk sky", when the sky appears clear, but the typical blue is either washed-out or barely noticeable.

This high, thick cirrostratus cloud is a clear indicator of an approaching low. In the coldest days of winter, a halo around the Sun is evidence of very cold and typically clear air at and above the surface.

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But sun dogs are indicators that weather conditions are likely to change in the next 18 to 36 hours. Moisture in the air causes wood to swell, making doors and windows sticky, and salt is a very effective absorber of moisture. With a high level of moisture in the air, the likelihood of precipitation is increased.

Fog is formed when the air cools enough that the vapour pressure encourages condensation over evaporation.

In order for the air to be cool on a summer night, the sky must be clear, so excess heat can be radiated into space. Cloudy skies act like a blanket, absorbing and reradiating the heat, keeping it in. So if it is cool enough and clear enough for fog to form, it will probably be clear the next day. Above the ocean or a large lake, air is typically more humid than above land. When the humid air moves over cold land, it will form fog and precipitation.

To the east of the North American Great Lakes , this is a common phenomenon, and is known as the " lake effect. It is almost exclusively an urban phenomenon, when the air is so cold that any vapor pressure results in condensation, and additional vapour emitted by automobiles, household furnaces, and industrial plants simply accumulates as fog. This piece of lore is true in summer but conditionally false in winter. Moisture-laden air is a better conductor of sound than dry air, so moist air carries sounds farther. In winter, temperature also becomes an important factor.

If the air is warm and moist, the rule holds.

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If the air is very cold, it is also very dense and a better sound conductor than warm air, and also likely to be much drier. When sounds carry over a long distance, the cold, clear weather is likely to linger. This rule may be true under a few special circumstances, otherwise it is false. By standing with one's back to the ground-level wind and observing the movement of the clouds, it is possible to determine whether the weather will improve or deteriorate.

Reverse for the Southern Hemisphere.

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This is known as the "crossed-winds" rule. Outflow winds typically blow opposite to the updraft zone, and clouds carried in the upper level wind will appear to be moving against the surface wind. However, if such a storm is in the offing, it is not necessary to observe the cloud motions to know rain is a good possibility. The nature of airflows directly at a frontal boundary can also create conditions in which lower winds contradict the motions of upper clouds, and the passage of a frontal boundary is often marked by precipitation. Most often, however, this situation occurs in the lee of a low pressure area, to the north of the frontal zones and convergence region, and does not indicate a change in weather, but rather, that the weather, fair or showery, will remain so for a period of hours at least.

There have been medical studies done which indicate some people experience this effect. This has the effect of aggravating already-irritated nerves near corns, cavities, or arthritic joints. One of the problems in testing the veracity of traditions about the weather is the wide variety to be found in the details of sayings and traditions. Some variations are regional, while others exhibit less of a pattern.

One case where weather lore has been studied for reliability against actual weather observations is the Groundhog Day lore. It predicts that if the groundhog sees its shadow on this day February 2 , six weeks of winter remain. Reservations booked using this special will be prepaid in full and are non-refundable.

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